DISCOVERED:  Crashed WWII fighter plane intact in desert
May 11th, 2012
02:28 PM ET

DISCOVERED: Crashed WWII fighter plane intact in desert

By Alan Silverleib

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.

Until now.

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. And almost 70 years after the accident, it's extraordinarily well-preserved.

You can read more of Alan Silverleib's story here

Here are the extraordinary photos:

Filed under: Security Brief
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. nb 990

    "He said: "To be honest, I feel like Ive lost when I tie, but thats just the game, you know You just have to think about the next game and do better."
    nb 990

    September 3, 2017 at 8:06 pm | Reply
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    cartierlovejesduas Good question Tyler because clearly more of us want to see The Crow on Bluray then the followup
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    July 7, 2017 at 5:57 am | Reply
  3. Sylvia

    My uncle fought across N. Africa, Sicily ("where those pretty Sicilian women gave me great food"), up Italy ("I always had thought Italy would be warm and dry, but boy, was I surprised", and he was glad the beach at Anzio wasn't very wide, 'cause he had to grab a comrade who was shot in the arm and pull him across it in a hail of bullets and shrapnel. He got to watch them get rid of Mussolini at Rome, he said ,and put in a new republican govt, then he went up through France from the south (Operation Dragoon), went in and fought in the Battle of the Bulge... all without getting a scratch. He said God protected him, and I think He did.

    August 8, 2014 at 4:10 pm | Reply
    • Perry

      And God didn't feel the need to get around to protecting all the other millions of casualties in WW2 ?? Sounds like a helluva "God" to worship...

      November 5, 2016 at 1:15 am | Reply
  4. Infinity Downline

    DISCOVERED: Crashed WWII fighter plane intact in desert – CNN Security Clearance – Blogs
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    June 26, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Reply
    • Sylvia

      It is just Ironic that a Polish oil worker found the crashed plane, as the Free Poles were the ones who found the Enigma machine in 1939, in German plane that crashed over Poland and they took the machine to London, where they were able to decode the German secret military messages by summer of 1940.

      August 8, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  5. Larissa

    The clubs are built offset a caertin angle. I believe if is so there is a bottom (low point) of the swing under the target shoulder. If the shoulder returns to the same position on each swing the driver is hit (now on the upswing) and irons on the down swing. This leads to the different in divot length and depth. There has got to be a common low point related to the upper body which will add consistency to the shot. Now with the D Plane I am not sure of the ball position and airm. Does this make sense? Thanks.David

    September 13, 2012 at 1:05 am | Reply
  6. James

    I agree the pilot's remains is likely nearby and they should be found and returned to England along with the plane.

    May 15, 2012 at 11:37 am | Reply
    • ydnar razahtlab

      Great skill to fly in the wrong direction, dumb cracker.

      May 16, 2012 at 10:01 am | Reply
      • DerekJJJ

        Have you ever flown a plane? If you have, you would know that getting lost is not all that hard. Add in a largely featureless desert and it becomes even easier. Dumb comment and you should be ashamed of yourself. Have some respect for the dead.

        May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  7. yuor

    The pilot is the issue now, his remains will surly be within some miles from the plane. the pilot have to be find and accorded his honor.

    May 15, 2012 at 7:54 am | Reply
  8. TRY


    May 15, 2012 at 6:56 am | Reply
    • BigTex

      Yeah, they probably saw it and forgot to mention it in the article... yeah....

      May 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Reply
      • LittleTex

        Haha, that's awesome.

        March 13, 2014 at 3:28 pm |
  9. FRevEg

    Well of course Egypt should give back the plane to the UK, just as soon as the UK gives Egypt back the Rosetta stone and tons of stolen monuments exhibited in London

    May 14, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Reply
    • Edski675

      The Rosetta Stone was not 'stolen'. Derisory that you suggest this in a story about remarkable flying skill and bravery.

      May 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Reply
    • Rob G

      The Rosetta Stone was found and "stolen" by Napoleon. Any other lack of historical knowledge you'd like to display?

      May 28, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Reply
  10. Edski675

    'If I should die, think only this of me. There's a corner of some foreign field that is forever England.' (Rupert Brooke, 1915). I sincerely hope that the British authorities can find Flight Sgt Copping's remains for a proper burial, and that the plane comes back to England. What a remarkable story.

    May 14, 2012 at 7:18 am | Reply
    • gandy

      who said he was English?

      May 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Reply
  11. M

    Look at the propeller. It clearly struck the ground while still spinning. Given the damage on the lower front it can be presumed he slowed the plane as much as he could before touching down then the rocky terrain broke off the forward landing gear, causing it to skid on its belly. Either that or he tried to belly land it.

    Either way, that's a tough landing.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Reply
  12. Jorge

    See the B-24 Lady Be Good on youtube, watch the long version. Just like the crew of this bomber, this pilot's body should be around somewhere 5-10 miles(?)

    May 13, 2012 at 3:23 am | Reply
    • Pat

      I was an Air Force kid, and my father was stationed at Wheelus Air Force Base in Tripoli 1959-1961. One of the propellers from the Lady Be Good was displayed at the foot of the base's flagpole, and the main chapel on base had a magnificent stained glass window of the plane in the desert. I was 11-12 years old. I often wonder what happened to those things after Gadafi took over.

      February 13, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  13. Viktor

    What's the matter with all of you?
    If is a dry, there is no humidity , the factor dry air was the reason to conserve the airplane no , do you see any plants around it?

    May 13, 2012 at 2:38 am | Reply
  14. Pete

    Now let's find the airplance presumed to be that of Ameila Earhardt. Anyone got any ideas?

    May 12, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Reply
  15. Pole


    May 12, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Reply
  16. bigdumbdinosaur

    An amazing find. I hope the Egyptian authorities will quickly authorize the salvaging of the wreck by the British.

    May 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Reply
  17. Tuck

    The plane is in such great condition due to the dry climate of the desert. There's no moisture, that's why the Air Force store their aircraft in Tucson Az. Unfortunately those same elements would only give person hours to live without proper hydration.

    May 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Reply
  18. Grey

    Great observation, O'Leary. I was wondering, how on earth did the pilot land that thing? Maybe those rocks were covered with sand 70 years ago? Amazing that pieces of the parachute were still there.

    May 12, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  19. bubb9

    He probably did not starve because of the sand which is there...

    May 12, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Reply
  20. Bobbi

    I believe the desert elements helped preserve the plane. It's quite a find and very interesting. It would be good to know what happened to the pilot.

    May 12, 2012 at 9:24 am | Reply
    • LittleTex

      The pilot died. Now you know.

      March 13, 2014 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  21. surfdog san diego

    questions (1) wouldn't sand storms have scoured this wreck, or was it covered up with sand for years? (2) where did the pilot go–his bones probably within a few miles.

    May 11, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Reply
    • Brian G.

      Hey Surfdog,
      If you look at the photos, they show different points of view. When the photos show the area around the plane, you can see that the plane sits on a rocky "plateau" with limited sand. The plane over 70 years surely would have gone through cycles of more sand, less sand (covering the plane). Since the area does not have large sand dunes sorrounding it, you may assume that wind kept this area "swept" of substantial amounts of sand. As far as the pilot's fate goes, well, we may never know. He may have to be placed on the list with Amilia Earhart.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:50 am | Reply
  22. T O'Leary

    What if find incredible: The terrain consisting of jutting rocks, and yet the skill of the pilot must have been incredible to keep the plane as intact as it is. Surprised aviators have not picked that up and commented.

    May 11, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Reply
  23. anonymous guy

    My grandpa did a lot of travelling in the Libyan Sahara working for an oil company. He found at least one jeep that was was driven off of a dune killing both occupants during WWII

    May 11, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Reply
    • Tom

      Wow, how amazing!

      May 11, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Reply
    • shawna

      my grandfather was in WWII it was pretty cool to find all of his items, like the book of what the natives looked like and what they had to inured it was pretty epic

      May 12, 2012 at 10:03 am | Reply
    • LittleTex

      Is it possible that the pilot of this airplane, found that jeep and then subsequently wrecked it and died inside the jeep after surviving the crash landing of his airplane. How Ironic that would be...

      March 13, 2014 at 3:35 pm | Reply
      • Perry

        @ LittleTex: Your comments on this page are awesome. Well played, sir.

        November 5, 2016 at 8:16 pm |
  24. Bob in MN

    The desert does preserve mechanical things very well. That's why the U.S. military stores unused aircraft near Tucson, AZ.

    May 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Reply
    • Scruff

      ....... Along with airlines.

      May 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  25. larry5

    Great time capsule. There have been a couple of planes from WWII found in North Africa. I wonder how many more are out there. I worked in Libya in the 70's and we found a German truck out in the middle of nowhere. It was really well preserved, too.

    May 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Reply
  26. USN in Nebraska

    That is amazing! I was attached to an F-14 squadron during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and the thought that this plane survived so well preserved in the open elements still floors me.

    May 11, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  27. Emmett Pinkston

    That's Extraordinary, when will the movie come out?

    May 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • Bookworm

      Emmett, read the book first. I can envision a young aviator eating his last meal not knowing what was awaiting his inevitable fate; or writing his last letter to an acquaintance or family member letting them know everything was okay…if he only knew. I hope the pilot's remains can be found and honored. A side note, the military has come a long way with survival preparation and aircraft tracking to include things such as IFF, global satellites, etc..

      May 15, 2012 at 9:14 am | Reply

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