WWII Fighter Found Perfectly Preserved in Egyptian Desert: US Made British P-40 Kittyhawk
May 12th, 2012
Shifting sands: The final resting place of the Kittyhawk P-40 has been discovered in the Sahara 70 years after it crashed there
- Pilot of the Kittyhawk P-40 was thought to have survived crash, but died trying to walk out of the desert
- Aircraft was found almost perfectly preserved, unseen and untouched, after it came down in 1942
- Historian describes find as 'an incredible time capsule' and 'the aviation equivalent of Tutankhamun's Tomb'
By Paul Harris
UK Daily Mail
He was hundreds of miles from civilisation, lost in the burning heat of the desert.
Second World War Flight Sergeant Dennis Copping took what little he could from the RAF Kittyhawk he had just crash-landed, then wandered into the emptiness.
From that day in June 1942 the mystery of what happened to the dentist’s son from Southend was lost, in every sense, in the sands of time.
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
But 70 years later, the ghostly remains of his battered but almost perfectly preserved plane has been discovered.
Like a time capsule that could provide the key to his disappearance, it had lain intact alongside a makeshift shelter Dennis appears to have made as he waited, hopelessly, for rescue.
Now a search is to begin for the airman’s remains – as aviation experts and historians begin an operation to recover and display the P-40 aircraft in his memory.
The chance find was made by an oil worker exploring a remote region of the Western Desert in Egypt. It is more than 200 miles from the nearest town in a vast expanse of largely featureless terrain.
Flight Sergeant Copping, part of a fighter unit based in Egypt during the North Africa campaign against Rommel, is believed to have lost his bearings while flying the damaged Kittyhawk to another airbase for repair. All that is known is that he went off course and was never seen again.
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
Remarkably, the plane remained almost untouched for the next seven decades – right down to the guns and ammunition found with it. Most of the cockpit instruments are intact, and the twisted propeller lies a few feet from the fuselage.
Crucially, the P-40’s identification plates are untouched – allowing researchers to track its provenance and service history.
There is flak damage in the fuselage, which is consistent with documents on the aircraft. Historian Andy Saunders said: ‘It is a quite incredible time capsule. It’s the aviation equivalent of Tutankhamun’s tomb.
‘This plane has been lying in the same spot where it crashed 70 years ago.
‘It hasn’t been hidden in the sand, it has just sat there.
‘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. The radio and batteries were out of the plane and it looks like he tried to get it working.