Flt Sgt Copping's P-40 From The Egyptian Desert

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8 years 5 months

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Copping's aircraft is not in the desert being picked apart for souvenirs and scrap. Despite the appalling restoration the airframe is in a more secure location than it was. Its future is more secure -the bits that survived the restoration that is. Its not the ideal outcome but its not the worst.

Time was of the essence here and perhaps in the short time available negotiation to move the Kittyhawk to location within Egypt was the best that could be agreed with the local authorities. Maybe there was not the time to agree a price that would ave seen the airframe leave Egypt. And maybe at the time Egypt had more pressing matters to attend to -such as a coup- other than what is in the big scheme of things, and despite its historical provenance, a mere trifle.

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20 years 9 months

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Stuart, you seem to be prity 'wise' speculating from the couch, with bits and pieces of the story to go on. It is certainly 'now easy to say' with the benefit of hindsight
If the aircraft wasn't moved in short order, once the tour operators had been made aware, it would have been nothing but a skeleton within weeks. As it was damage was being done within a few days of its whereabouts being made public. Moving the aircraft ASAP was definitely a success and ensured its survival, at last in some form.

As for the Spitfire, it wasn't a complete airframe as I understand it, others will no doubt confirm (or not).

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14 years 10 months

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YUP you got my number just a couch potato; However the basic assumption is that it has been saved, well how much has been saved? I doubt very much that the Egyptians will show you all the bits they skipped in the process of salvation; when you have worked on a single piece of airframe for several months in order to conserve it, then you might understand.
With regards to whether the spitfire was complete of otherwise it was more complete than anything returned to the air in a long time.

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20 years 9 months

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You continue to 'assume,' what do you know about what I have worked on with regards to aircraft?

A far as what the Egyptians did in the restoration effort, you can ask the same questions of plenty of 'restorations' done in the West - it isn't exclusive to so called 'third world' countries.

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14 years 10 months

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I have no idea as to what you have worked on, and yes you are right many so called restorations in the western world are nothing more than new build, because new metal is easier to work with than old, and requires less skilled workers, and is ultimately cheaper, doesn't make it right though does it?

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14 years 8 months

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Thanks for your detailed update, Robin. I certainly was unaware of much of that documentation.

As you know, my main involvement was to follow up on the DNA analysis of the bones found some miles away from the aircraft by the ARIDO team. Without repeating what we have discussed over the years, we are still unsure of
1. Where the bones are now (one set or two?)
2. Whether they were tested for DNA
3. Why the Egyptian pathologists apparently said they were too old or contaminated for analysis, yet said they were from the same person. (Note: DNA does not give us information about age)
4. What the Cairo Embassy in fact knew about this testing or lack of testing.

The Kittyhawk is taken care of, maybe not in they way most of us would have liked, but Dennis Copping remains missing. Maybe now is the time to accept that that is the end of the story (as some have suggested), but I, for one, find that unsatisfactory, and I believe the family feel the same way.

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16 years 4 months

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Quoting Propstrike:

Seems odd that the RAFM team, who presumably took a full photographic record of their activities, never placed any such images in the public domain despite huge public interest in the undertaking.

Perhaps there was concern that interest would be aroused in Egypt, risking growing sentiment it should remain in the country.

The RAFM has said vey little if anything, in public about their involvement. Thir involvement in the recovery was only confirmed by Kennet, indeed it took lectures that Kennet gave in the US before there was any confirmation as to what had actually happened. Beyond a planning apploication regarding the intended display of the P-40, RAFM said nothing about it's involvement or plans until the Annual Report came out

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14 years 10 months

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Just to add that I have now seen a decent resolution photograph of the P40, and the work is horrendous, forget about the colour or the sharks mouth or the roundels but look at the rad intake especially at the back where the vent flaps should be, and where it merges into the fuselage (or in this case doesn't) the wing root is flat like it'd hit a pole, and the large characteristic fairing forward of the U/C leg is non existent, and you guys are telling me they've done a good job......... I'm off back to me couch.

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11 years 10 months

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That all makes fascinating reading. two things stand out
1. The RAFM was fully aware that the aircraft was going to be restored in Egypt. By 'last year' I assume that to be they knew in 2016?
2. given the survey of the airframe how much original material is there actually in there?
one question is
Did the RAFM ever offer their P-40 in exchange? Being a 'bitsa' it would have been a ideal swap?

Rob

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20 years 9 months

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Can you point out where anyone has said 'they've done a good job"? Must have missed that statement.

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"Moving the aircraft ASAP was definitely a success and ensured its survival, at last in some form".

Exactly how much of this A/C is represented in this display? are you assuming (see what I did there) that there are substantial remains of the P40 incorporated into the "display"?

Moving this airframe from where it was, to where it is, is a bit like dragging the p38 at Harlech up the beach a bit, it's fine until the next high tide/Arab spring, they haven't ensured it's survival, indeed I don't believe that was their primary directive, that was to add something to their tourist attraction, which they have done.

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From the perspective of this forum, the outcome is disappointing, and a very low-key conclusion to such an exciting and unusual discovery.

There is a great temptation, almost an impulse, to identify the 'bad guys' whose greed or incompetence brought about this unhappy ending. But perhaps in reality, no one person or body actually had the influence or means to bring about conclusion which we would have deemed satisfactory;-

Not the RAF Museum, who knowingly took a chance, to at least save an historic artifact, but were ultimately rebuffed by the Egyptian authorities. Nor even Kennet Aviation, who seemingly achieved all that their contract required them to do, and duly received the payment that underpinned the deal.

Nor can one really blame the the decision makers at the Egyptian museum, at a time of political turmoil, when staff may well have been replaced or moved on, rendering obsolete any commitments or assurances which initially steered the whole process 6 years ago.

Finally, one cannot really blame the technicians or engineers or even volunteers who undertook the restorative process, following the instructions of management, though with skill, knowledge and probably funding far below what would be available in the UK. They did what was asked of them, within the limits of their resources.

Perhaps only political intervention at the highest level could have got the aeroplane to the UK, involving all sorts of behind-the -scenes negotiations, and realistically, that was very unlikely to ever happen.

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14 years 11 months

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Thanks for the wider view Propstrike and timely as I was just about to post this which gives advice about doing business in Egypt https://www.commisceo-global.com/country-guides/egypt-guide

see the section about negotiation in particular

Looks like a tricky place to deal with even before the turmoil.

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20 years 9 months

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Yes I think it is fair to 'assume' large portions of the aircraft were in good enough condition to keep, why try and reproduce something that is already there. Those poorly fabricated parts you mention were non existent to begin with, destroyed in the crash, therefore they had to be reproduced - unfortunately not well.

Comparison with the Harlech P-38 is totally irrelevant, the condition of the wrecks are not comparable. The P-40 is certainly safer now than it was prior to recovery once its location was known, it certainly wouldn't exist some six years after the event and fortunately El Alamein isn't a hot bed of revolution.

As for adding a tourist attraction, ultimately part of any 'museum's' directive, particularly those which don't have the luxury of 'decent' funding, (such as the RAFM/ NASM)

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As someone who has previously tried several times to quite legitimately deal with the RAF Museum for something completely irrelevant to their collection - and got knocked back, I find this whole episode quite shocking and a bit of a joke.
To of given away an airframe regardless of its importance or completeness and receive absolutely nothing in return without even securing ownership first beggars belief!

Rob

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I think Propstrike sums it up very well indeed - we are looking for bad guys here; someone on which to pin blame - all too common these days. It was a gamble - and one which did not pay off.

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Dave I think we'll have to agree to disagree, what with you being a stalwart of the restoration community, and me ,well just an inhabitant of the couch..... but the comparison between the P40 and the P38 wasn't one of condition, but one of safety, and at the moment the P38 is safest, as it is back under the sand.

Bruce, I don't think we are looking for someone to blame, more the acceptance of blame (or the lack of) by the RAFM; fundamentally they should not have agreed to swap the spitfire (public property) for half the job,(and personally I think they should have paid in cash) clearly they have never heard of "no win no fee".

"As for recovery - its in a dangerous part of the world -it would require government approval and a fair amount of money".

From David Burke right at the beginning of this saga.

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Is this relevant ?

Under the terms of WW2 Lend Lease, doesn't this aircraft legally belong to the U.S of A ? Anyone know the answer ?

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5 years 10 months

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Interesting point, John. I read several times statements of "bring it home", meaning the UK... where the aircraft actually never has been...

As far as I am aware of, the rule in Egypt is that antiquities are not to be exportet. This is apparently vlaid for old cars and I would wonder if a different rule would apply to wrecked aircraft of WW2 then.

Profile picture for user Mark12

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1. The RAFM was fully aware that the aircraft was going to be restored in Egypt. By 'last year' I assume that to be they knew in 2016?

I would assume it was 2017.

My understanding is that the budgetary cost to the RAF Museum was zero and that Kennet picked up the tab for everything...and I mean everything. This was not an easy country to do business with.

I would suggest this was high risk to Kennet as the tab for 'everything' was elastic in the initial phase. In the event the final figure was less, but not substantially less, than the value placed on the Spitfire PK664 by an independent assessor conducted in 2012 on all the RAF Museum's surplus Spitfires and components. In my view it was an equitable trade.

Although the P-40 was initially recovered to El Alamein, my understanding is it was transferred to a further more secure location on a military base with the full knowledge of the Kennet Team. It then went off the radar. Some scurrilous posters on this forum suggested it was in the US...."For what it is worth there are reports from a couple of sources, unconfirmed in any way, that the P40 container is no longer in the Middle East - but is now in the US." etc

It appears to be a repeat of the El Alamein Spitfire that was recovered by the Egyptian Navy. Diplomatic requests to view the recovery were not answered which it seems is the way it is in Egypt...and then 'it is ready for you to view' a couple of years later at the museum, all chances of securing an identity by inspection by then totally lost.

I have visited the museum twice. Firstly to inspect the Spitfire with our then Defence Attaché and the second time passing by on a road trip from Tripoli across Libya to Alexandra with my old TA regiment, taking in the 'Lady be Good'. The latter concentrating the mind on what happens to aircraft wrecks once the word is out. It is a fine museum and I have not changed my view from my very early post on this thread when the P-40 first came to the public attention. I thought that it should be recovered and displayed as a diorama in the El Alamein Museum.

The changing management and style of the RAF Museum would I assume have ruled out the chance to trade their scruffy P-40 with the Egyptians for the desert P-40 as found but it is a price I personally thought worth while. Many I am sure will disagree.

One further plus point. The avenues opened up by Kennet subsequently allowed an inspection of the reported Spitfire way off track in the desert. The small remains of a Spitfire were located. Some research suggests it is another missing airman, never found, as Sgt Copping. Matt Poole and I are pretty sure we know the serial and the pilot and are continuing our research and will publish in due course.

Mark