Frozen in the sands of time: Plane of Second World War discovered in the Sahara desert

Doesn’t need words. The photos at the link, lots of em, tell the tale. Sad end to a young life.

Frozen in the sands of time: Plane of Second World War pilot discovered in the Sahara desert… 70 years after it crashed

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’


A Second World War plane crashed by a British pilot in the Sahara desert, 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 desert.

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 single-seater fighter plane was discovered by chance by 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.

However there are fears over what will be left of it after locals began stripping parts and instruments from the cockpit for souvenirs and scrap.

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.


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 attache at the British embassy in Cairo is due to visit the scene in order to officially confirm its discovery and serial number.



Posted by peiper    United Kingdom   on 05/10/2012 at 01:59 PM   
  1. Outstanding.

    A bit of digging about shows the first announcement of the find, in Polish -

    The same guys then put up all their pictures on a Picassa page -

    and 3 YouTube videos that link to each other

    similar pics on reddit

    The airplane is a P40-E, also known as a Kittyhawk Mk Ia: Allison engine, 6 .50s in the wings, air inlet above the cowling, no extra fillet at the front base of the tail. Somewhere there is another story waiting to be told ... the battery seems to be Australian.

    Sadly, the idiots in Egypt have no respect and no self-control -
    “Since the discovery, the wreck has been seriously vandalized - a travesty the whole aviation world seems unable to stop. The perspex has been smashed out, bullet holes appear in the cowling and other forms of damage and theft seem to be underway.”

    And I can’t even blame the average Abdul over this; the wreck is hundreds of miles deep in the desert, and in an area controlled by the Egyptian Army. In other words, it is the Army who is doing the looting and vandalism. Sand lice. Any fool the world over with the smallest awareness of the world would know that this old airplane is worth several million dollars. But not the fuckers in the camel corps. To them, it’s scrap metal and a target.

    Best link I could find:

    Posted by Drew458    United States   05/10/2012  at  06:55 PM  
  2. And another tail to hang thereby ...

    The 2nd plane in, B HS (plane B from squadron HS) is a K model (see the tail fillet?) that appears to be the replacement ship for this very plane ..
    ... and that K model was flown by “Stocky” Edwards, Canadian ace, who is still living ... and still flying, at least once at the controls of “his” Kittyhawk…


    No, I have no idea why the Canadians put the E model tail on a K model plane when they made it a 2 seater. Perhaps they used an L model stretched fuselage to get the space for the extra seat. Not all the Ls had the bigger tail. An awful lot of these old warbirds are made up of whatever parts could be scrounged, which makes them more like the planes out in the theaters, shot up, bent up, and put back together with what-have-you than any brand new planes factory fresh.

    ... or PERHAPS I should just learn to read more carefully: The Canadian ship is an N model, merely painted up to look like Stocky’s wartime K model. Confusing.

    Posted by Drew458    United States   05/10/2012  at  07:36 PM  
  3. There could be multiple planes of different types with the same markings in the RAF, one after the other. The first two letters are the squadron the third is the aircraft.

    In this case the squadron designator is HS, the individual aircraft are denoted by adding one more letter. All the 260 squadron aircraft would be marked HS-A, HS-B, HS-C and so on. When an aircraft was destroyed or scrapped the replacement aircraft would be given the old one’s markings. So it is quite possible that the same markings would be on a succession of Hurricanes in 1939 and 1940, then on Mk V Spitfires in 41 and 42, then on Mk IXs as the squadron re-equipped with different types and replaced losses. I have read that prior to the war a squadron would have 16 or 20 aircraft on strength but only 12 pilots, the extra aircraft were there so that when an aircraft needed maintenance it could be put down and the pilot would be given one fresh from maintenance so the squadron could still fly at full strength. Unlike the USAAF, RAF fighter pilots did not have their ‘own’ machine with a few exceptions for aces, such as Johnnie E Johnson in Spitfire JE-J.

    At the end of WWII thousands of airplanes were scrapped. Unfortunately the Kittyhawk was an old design so I suspect that almost all of them were sold by weight and melted down into pots, pans and aluminium siding. Oh to have a time machine that could create a portal a hundred feet wide and twenty-five high!

    Posted by Al_in_Ottawa    Canada   05/10/2012  at  10:16 PM  
  4. You are too right Al. One of the links I followed on this story lead me to a page that listed the whereabouts of every single surviving P-40 in the world, very few of which are actually in flying condition. Their histories were listed. Some of them had been sold off as scrap; one to a farmer who had kept the plane for a couple years then buried it.

    Buried it? WTH?? Dude, it might have been a rotted old plane, but it wasn’t fertilizer!

    Posted by Drew458    United States   05/11/2012  at  10:58 AM  
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