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Sat, May 12, 2012

WWII Fighter Found In The Sahara Desert

Kittyhawk P-40 Said To Be 'Almost Perfectly Preserved'

A badly-damaged but nearly perfectly preserved Kittyhawk P-40 has been found nearly 70 years after it went down in the Sahara Desert, along with what appears to be a makeshift shelter built by the pilot ... Flight Sergeant Dennis Copping ... as he waited in vain to be rescued.

The airplane was discovered by a Polish oil company worker on an exploration mission in the Western Desert of Egypt, according to a report in the UK newspaper the Daily Mail. Military records show that Copping was ferrying the P-40 from an Egyptian base to another location for repair. Photographs of the airplane show it had been damaged by gunfire at some point in its life ... as there are still bullet holes in the wing. The pilot reportedly lost his bearings, went off course, and was never heard from again.

The photographs also show the airplane's nearly-intact cockpit with instruments still readable. The engine is barely rusted due to the harsh, arid desert conditions in which it has rested, and there is still live ammo in the magazine. The airplane's radio and batteries were found near the wreckage, indicating they'd been removed by the pilot. Also nearby are what appear to be remains of a parachute, which it is thought was used by Sergeant Copping for shelter before he tried to walk out of the desert. No human remains have been found, and a search is being conducted within a 20 mile radius of the accident site. The paper reports that the nearest town was some 200 miles from where Copping went down.

The UK MoD has been made aware of the find. Captain Paul Collins, British defence attaché to Egypt, said that a search for the airman's remains would be conducted, but it had a low chance of success. He also said the area is near a smuggling line running from Sudan to Libya, so the search would need to be conducted with the assistance of the Egyptian army.

As for the plane its self. the RAF museum said it was already working with the MoD to recover the P-40. The online news site The Blaze reports that British authorities are concerned that the airplane will be stripped for scrap by locals who now know of its existence. The Egyptian military has already reportedly seized the planes guns and ammunition "for safety reasons," and British authorities say they are in a "race against time" to get the airplane out as complete as possible.  There are currently thought to be about 20 airworthy examples of the airplane. (Photo: RAAF P-40 Kittyhawk in the Western Desert)

FMI: www.rafmuseum.org.uk

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