The Lost Plane of the Sahara
An oil worker in Egypt finds a 70-year-old plane shot down in World War II
PHOTO: Kittyhawks were made in the United States and were popular fighter planes during World War II. (Philip Wallick / Corbis)
MAP: The plane was found in a remote part of the vast Sahara Desert. (Jim McMahon)
Oil worker Jakub Perka was on an expedition in the Sahara Desert in Egypt when he came across a metal object in the sand. It turned out to be a plane flown in World War II that had been lost for 70 years!
Perka found the plane about 200 miles from the nearest town. It was very well-preserved. Dry conditions in the Sahara Desert, which covers much of North Africa, kept the plane safe from severe rusting. In this remote location, no one had disturbed it and most of its instruments remained intact.
The Egyptian military immediately seized the fighter plane’s guns and ammunition, or bullets, for safety reasons. Locals also began stripping the plane for scrap metal.
People who study aviation, or the design and operation of aircraft, are excited about this find. Andy Saunders, an aviation historian, tells British newspaper The Telegraph, “It is a quite incredible time capsule, the aviation equivalent of Tutankhamen’s Tomb.” (Tutankhamen, better known as King Tut, was an ancient Egyptian ruler whose treasure-filled tomb was discovered in 1922.)
A LINK TO THE PAST
The plane, a Kittyhawk P-40 manufactured in the United States, crashed in June 1942. Some historians speculate it belonged to James “Stocky” Edwards, a Canadian ace pilot who fought for the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in North Africa at the time.
Because Edwards’s plane had been damaged, British Flight Sergeant Dennis Copping was assigned to fly it to another British base in Egypt for repairs. It is likely that Copping went off course and then enemy fire caused the plane to crash. Remains of a makeshift camp near the plane show that Copping survived the crash. But with no one nearby to help him, Copping certainly died in the Sahara.
British officials plan to search the area for Copping’s remains. Historians are asking
the British government to declare the site a “war grave,” and to preserve the plane so it can be put in the RAF museum.