5 Amazing WW2 Aircraft Finds

by FliteTest | May 29, 2018 | (9) Posted in Just Fun

During WWII, many missing-in-action aircraft were never found. Today, intact warbirds are still being discovered all over the world.

It's easy to view the Second World War as having occurred in another age. Over seventy years since the end of the global conflict, the war is now sadly on the edge of living memory. Despite this, discoveries of lost aircraft tangibly connect our time with a time gone by. Here are five amazing rediscovered WW2 airplanes that bring the past to life.

1. BF-109E pulled from a Russian Lake

Water covers a great deal of the world, so it's not much of a suprise that many newly discovered WW2 aircraft have been found on the seabed or in lakes. This BF-109 was pulled from a Russian lake in 2003.


Probably thanks to the non-corrosive waters, this 109 was recovered remarkably intact. It's more than just an echo of the past, it is a solid chunk of it.

The story behind the BF-109 is quite interesting: the Messerschmitt was built in 1939 and fought in the Battle of France and Battle of Britain before being shipped out to the infamous Eastern Front during Operation Barbarossa. It was shot down by a Soviet Hurricane but made a perfect wheels-up landing on the frozen lake. The pilot, Luftwaffe Ace Wulf-Dietrich Widowitz, escaped unharmed and abandoned the airplane which later sank. The 109 is now being preserved in California - Find out more.

2. Crashed B-24 on Atka Island

This B-24 was flying a reconnaissance mission in Alaska when it ran into trouble. On December 9, 1942, a sudden weather front prevented it from landing at any nearby airfields.

The only option was a belly landing in almost zero visibility. It's a testament to the pilot's skill that he and the crew all walked away. Today, the Alaskan mountain backdrop and eerie mists that descend on the 65-mile long island make for a fitting final setting for this once proud bomber. Find out more about this airplane.  

3. P-40 Kittyhawk found in the Sahara

In 2012, a team of oil workers stumbled across this preserved P-40 that disappeared in 1942.

The team had discovered a scene frozen in time. This American-built Kittyhawk was in a remarkable condition. Sadly, the remains of the pilot, Dennis Copping, was nowhere near the aircraft. Presumably, after making a textbook crash landing, he walked out into the desert never to be seen again. 

The sands and lack of corrosive air moisture kept this P-40 preserved for over seventy years. Live rounds were even found inside the guns. 

Historians have called the find an ‘aviation equivalent of Tutankhamun’s Tomb’. There's something slightly unsettling about an object like this downed fighter having not moved for so many years as the world moves on without it. Learn more about this airplane's story here

4. Buffalo F2A Lake Find

This Finnish Brewster Buffalo was fished out of a lake near Murmansk, Russia, in 1998. Much like the BF-109 featured earlier in this article, it had been shot-down and had to perform an emergency landing on a frozen lake. Unlike the 109, the pilot Lauri Pekuri was controlling a burning aircraft.

The plane flipped over upon landing and sank. Thankfully Pekuri was able to get out in time. He then walked over 20km back to his unit traversing a mine field on his way. 

Today, the aircraft remains one of the only examples of the Finnish Buffalo still in exsitance. Learn more about it here. 

5. Spitfire Mk 1 dug out of Dunkirk Beach

Spitfire Mk Ia N3200 wasn't so much discovered out of the blue, rather it was rediscovered. In 1940, it was shot down and crashed onto a French beach during the evacuation of Dunkirk. 

After shooting down a Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bomber, Squadron Leader Geoffrey Stephenson was himself shot down. He and his brand new Spitfire Mk1 crash-landed on a beach at Sangatte, near Calais. Shortly afterwards, he Stephenson was captured and the sand covered aircraft left to the elements. 

Fast forwarding to 1986, strong currents revealed the Spitfire from beneath the sands. It was recovered and slowly restored. In 2014, a final push completed the project and the aircraft can now be seen flying once again. 

It is currently housed at RAF Duxford in the UK in the very same hanger it once was kept all those years ago. Learn more about this Spitfire here.

Images credits 

Arqueologia Militar

The Vintage News

Duxford Imperial War Museum

Article by James Whomsley

Editor of FliteTest.com



Instagram @jameswhomsley


Nathaniel on May 29, 2018
Wow just seeing those planes still intact is mind boggling! Loving all the ww2 history in these articles!
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Aleksi on May 31, 2018
Nice article.
Some add-on info about Brewster pilot Lauri Pekuri.
He started aviation with model airplanes at 1930's.
At war he flew total of 314 missions. Archieved 18½ victories.
When his Brewster BW-372 was shotdown he encountered four Russian Hurricanes and was shot in flames and managed to land on that lake.
Later he was shotdown again in 1944 while flying BF109 and needed to bailout with parachute. That time he was caught after a week of hiding behind enemy lines and was captured as prisoner of war for rest of the war (5 months).
After war he was first Finnish pilot flying super sonic with Folland Gnat plane and first Finnish pilot exceeding twice the speed of sound with Dassault Mirage III.
He retired from airforce as colonell and died later at 1999.
Quite a chap i would say.
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frank.wolf.502 on June 2, 2018
Just got home from visit to Air and Space in Virginia. There is so many amazing aircraft to learn about it is great to see they survive even when hard landed somewhere in the world. Thanks for sharing these stories.

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5 Amazing WW2 Aircraft Finds