But in May 2012, a Polish oil worker stumbled across the missing aircraft, lying eerily intact beneath the fierce sun of the Sahara Desert. The chance find, described by historians as the ‘aviation equivalent of Tutankhamun’s Tomb’, revealed guns and ammunition still on board and a cockpit virtually frozen in time.
Bullet holes in the aircraft’s spine may explain why it crashed, suggesting Flt Sgt Copping had been forced to make an emergency landing after being shot at. But it’s also known than the P-40 was already damaged, perhaps also accounting for its torn skin.
Despite the Kittyhawk’s intact condition, the pilot’s remains were nowhere to be seen. But a month after the discovery, a team of Italian historians uncovered human remains three miles from the crash site. They also found a piece of torn parachute, a key chain fob displaying the number 61, and a metal button dated 1939.
Relatives of Flt Sgt Copping were hopeful that the remains were his, confirming the pilot had survived the crash and died after using his parachute to create a makeshift shelter from the sun, while attempting to walk out of the desert. Read More