WW2 Plane and Pilot Found After 70 Years

William Pryor-Bennett (62) is the closest living relative of Flight Sergeant Denis Copping, who, at the age of 24, crash-landed his Kittyhawk P40 plane and walked across the sands to his death.

RAF P-40 Kittyhawk found in the Sahara Desert after 70 years.

This is a fascinating story of the above RAF Squadron 260 pilot, Sergeant Denis Copping.

Sergeant Copping and another pilot were flying two damaged P-40 Kittyhawks to a repair base in Egypt in June, 1942. At the time, the British Army and Commonwealth troops were battling German-Italian Armies led by the famous Desert Fox,  Erwin Rommel.

Achieving air superiority over the Luftwaffe and Regina Aeronautica (Italian Air Force) was paramount, so getting the P40’s repaired and back into action was an important mission.

Unfortunately, Sergeant Copping crash landed in the Sahara and 70 years later his belly-landed airplane was found by an oil worker. A bit later human remains were found five miles from the crash site. It seems that the sergeant decided to walk for help not realizing he was 200 miles from the nearest town.

William Pryor-Bennett is  a relative and is seeking to verify that the remains are those of his long lost uncle.

Copping is among the hundreds of thousands of MIA’s from WW2 that disappeared in those tumultuous days. It would be nice to get closure for at least one family.

The P-40 looks like it’s in pretty good shape. I suppose the desert heat preserved it.

The P-40 Kittyhawk was an American built airplane by Curtis. It was also known as the Warhawk and it was made famous by the Flying Tigers, American pilots who flew Warhawks for the Nationalist Chinese Air Force against the Japanese.

P-40 Warhawk with Nationalist Chinese markings flown by the Flying Tigers.

Model of a P-40 Kittyhawk in the RAF desert pattern camouflage. The shark’s teeth motive on the plane’s nose was common in the RAF and AAF.

As new fighters became available (Spitfires for the British, Mustangs for the Americans) the Warhawk\Kittyhawk continued to serve in a fighter-bomber role. Most were  armed with six 50 caliber machine-guns it would have been deadly in a strafing role. P-40’s were also made available to the Russians through lend-lease.

I’ve always had a fondness for this airplane. As a kid I saw John Wayne star in Flying Tigers and so a P-40 was one of the first models I built with my dad.

Lend-Lease P-40 Kittyhawk with Russian markings.

5 comments on “WW2 Plane and Pilot Found After 70 Years

  1. The latest update on the body is that it isn’t the body of Sergeant Copping but is a body of a local Bedouin. An amazing story though.

  2. With all the satellite photography taken of the Earth’s deserts, I wonder if anyone is making any effort to find lost aircraft such as this?

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