Monday, May 14, 2012

Found seventy years later

RAF Flight Sargent Dennis Copping was charged on June 28, 1942 with shuttling a Kittyhawk P-40 to another airbase where they could better work on the front landing gear that would not retract.  At the time Rommel was busily chasing the Brits all over the Sahara and every piece of equipment was important.  Unfortunately Sgt. Copping got turned around and ended up running out of fuel over the Egyptian desert.  Well, the plane, but alas not Sgt. Copping, has been found, and in remarkable shape.

In what experts consider nothing short of a miracle, a Polish oil company worker recently discovered the plane believed to have been flown by missing Flight Sgt. Dennis Copping.
As German Gen. Erwin Rommel chased British forces across the North African desert, a stray Royal Air Force fighter crashed in the blistering sands of the Egyptian Sahara on June 28, 1942.
The pilot was never heard from again. The damaged Kittyhawk P-40 -- a couple of hundred miles from civilization -- was presumed lost forever.
The fighter's "state of preservation is incredible," British military historian Andy Saunders said. "The thing just landed there in the desert and the pilot clearly got out. ... It is a complete time capsule really."
Pilots were "flying with very basic life support systems," Saunders said. "His chances of survival were not good."
Almost 70 years after the accident, the plane is extraordinarily well-preserved.
RAF pilots in North Africa at that time didn't have much in terms of rations. Copping's supply would have been very limited, assuming he had food or water at all.
The young pilot, according to Saunders, apparently became disoriented during the flight and headed in the wrong direction. Another RAF pilot flying nearby "tried all sorts of things" to get his attention, but Copping "bizarrely" ignored a series of warnings, Saunders said.
Most of the plane's fuselage, wings, tail and cockpit instruments remain intact.
For safety reasons, Egyptian officials have removed its ammunition and guns.
As Copping's story becomes known, British authorities are hoping to bring his plane back to the United Kingdom and put it on display at the RAF Museum in London.

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