Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Flathead Rob pointed out this story and photos. If not for pilot's apparent tragic outcome this might have made for the all time greatest "barn find" story.

Second World War RAF fighter plane discovered in the Sahara Desert 70 years after it crashed. A Second World War plane crashed by a British pilot in the Sahara , before he walked off to his death, has been found frozen in time 70
years later.

 Unseen and untouched, the Kittyhawk P-40 has been described as an aviation 'time capsule' after it was found almost perfectly preserved in the sands of the western desert in Egypt .After coming down in June 1942, the pilot is thought to have survived the crash and initially used his parachute for shelter before making a desperate and futile attempt to reach civilisation by walking out of the

Shifting sands: The final resting place of the Kittyhawk P-40 has been discovered in the Sahara 70 years after it crashed.

Time capsule: Aside from the damage it sustained during impact, the aircraft
appears to have been almost perfectly preserved in the sands of the Sahara.

 Chance discovery: The single-seater aircraft was found by a Polish oil company worker exploring a remote region of the western desert in Egypt.  The RAF airman - believed to have been Flight Sergeant Dennis Copping, 24 - was never seen again. The crash site is about 200 miles from the nearest town.  The plane was discovered by chance Polish oil company worker Jakub Perka, who was exploring a remote region. Despite the crash impact, most of the aircraft's cockpit instruments are intact.  Its guns and ammunition were also still intact before being seized by the Egyptian military for safety reasons. There are also signs of the makeshift camp made by the pilot alongside the fuselage.  No human remains have been found but it is thought the pilot's decomposed body may lay anywhere in a 20-mile radius of the plane. The RAF Museum at Hendon, north London , has been made aware of the discovery and plans are underway to recover the aircraft and display it in the future.  A search will also be launched in the slim hope of finding the lost airman. The defence attaché at the British embassy in Cairo is due to visit the scene in order to officially confirm its discovery and serial number.

At the controls: The plane's cockpit, but there are fears over what will be left of it after locals began stripping parts and instruments for souvenirs and scrap.

Unseen and untouched: Equipment and controls from the plane were found scattered around the craft at the crash site. The plane is still in very good condition.

 Intact: Most of the plane's cockpit instruments were untouched and it still had it guns and ammunition. Historians are now urging the British government to step in and have the scene declared as a war grave so it can be protected before the plane is recovered.  Historian Andy Saunders, from Hastings, East Sussex, said: 'The aviation historical world is hugely excited about this discovery. 'This plane has been lying in the same spot where it crashed 70 years ago.  It hasn't been hidden or buried in the sand, it has just sat there.  'It is a quite incredible time capsule, the aviation equivalent of Tutankhamun's Tomb.  'It is hundreds of miles from anywhere and there is no reason why anyone would go there. 'It would appear the pilot got into trouble and just brought it down in the middle of the desert.  'He must have survived the crash because one photo shows a parachute around the frame of the plane and my guess is the poor bloke used it to shelter from the sun.

Second World War weaponry: The machine gun on the wing of the crashed plane.

Bullet holes: The Kittyhawk appears to have been shot at (left), while its broken propeller lays nearby.Well-preserved: The Kittyhawk's magazine of bullets were also found in the wreckage.  The radio and batteries were discovered out of the plane.  It looks like he tried to get it working.  If he died at the side of the plane his remains would have been found. 'Once he had crashed there nobody was going to come and get him.  It is more likely he tried to walk out of the desert but ended up walking to his death.  It is too hideous to contemplate. 'Things are happening very slowly with the recovery, mainly because we are in the hands of the Egyptian authorities.  'The MoD needs to act and get the plane out of there as soon as possible rather than embarking upon a great deal of hand-wringing and meetings to discuss its future.' Ft Sgt Copping was the son of a dentist and came from Southend, Essex.  In 1942 he was a member of the RAF's 260 Squadron, a fighter unit based in Egypt during the North Africa campaign.

 Heading home: The RAF Museum at Hendon, north London , has been made aware of the discovery and plans are underway to recover the aircraft for exhibition in the future.

Sign of the time: The Kittyhawk's factory stamp (left) and gun loading instruction panel (right).  However, some locals see the aircraft as a piece of junk.

Signs of survival: Flight Sergeant Dennis Copping's parachute was part of what is believed to be a makeshift camp alongside the fuselage.

Remote: The crash site is about 200 miles from the nearest town.  By June of that year the Allies were retreating from 'Desert Fox' Erwin Rommel and his German forces. On June 28 Ft Sgt Copping and another airman were tasked with flying two damaged Kittyhawk P-40 planes from one British airbase in northern Egypt to another for repair. During the short flight Ft Sgt Copping lost his bearings, went off course and was never seen again. Military historians say they are 99 per cent sure the Kittyhawk found in the desert was the one flown by Ft Sgt Copping, based on identification numbers and letters on the plane.  It was documented at the time that there was a fault with its front landing gear which would not retract and the photographic evidence suggests the aircraft had its front wheel down when it crashed.

In flight: According to experts, a plane making a controlled crash landing in the desert wouldn't have its landing gear down and would belly-flop on the sand.
There is also flak damage in the fuselage, which is also consistent with documented evidence of Ft Sgt Copping's plane. Ft Sgt Copping's name appears on the El Alamein war memorial.  It is not thought that there are any immediate family members of his left in the UK. Captain Paul Collins, the British defence attaché to Egypt , confirmed there will be a search carried out of the area around the plane in the hope of finding his remains. He said: 'The pilot isn't in the plane but there is evidence to suggest he got out.  'It is likely he walked away and was clearly lost.  We are talking about a 100 square kilometre area and it is extremely unlikely that we will find any remains. 'The scene is close to a smuggling line from Sudan and Libya .  We will need to go there with the Egyptian army because it is a dangerous area.' Ian Thirsk, head of collections at the RAF Museum, said they are working with the MoD to make efforts to recover the plane.

1 comment:

TechMech said...

This is a cool bit of history, good find.