updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri May 11, 2012
(CNN) -- 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.
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.
Amazing they hadn't found this for 70 years! Even in the age of total global surveillance. The last find like this was about 15 yrs after the war, a B-24, the Lady Be Good in Libya. Look at that panel, just needs a dusting off and few glass covers replaced. Note the bullet, or flak holes. That Allison V-12 looks perfectly serviceable.
It really makes me admire and pity these young pilots with ltd. training and comparatively crude instruments sent to war to die so terribly. I read a book called "War Pilot" --a collection of air stories, where a young P-40 pilot got lost over New Guinea in the 40's and had to bail out into a jungle full of crocs and headhunters. He had been forced to avoid thunderheads 50,000 ft high and got disoriented, ran out of fuel, and was launched literally into the forest primeval. He contracted malaria. Used a lighter to keep headhunters at bay, and was finally traded like cattle between tribes, almost cooked until the drums of the jungle telegraph informed the natives that he was worth a few sacks of rice. They then took him to a trading post where he was rescued. Imagine that!