May 21 2012

Pilot of lost Second World War plane to be buried

Flight Sergeant Dennis Copping, then 24, survived the accident in June 1942 and is believed to have walked away from his wrecked P40 Kittyhawk fighter plane to find help.

But his parents received a telegram informing them their son was missing in action, and he was never seen again.

The almost perfectly preserved plane has now been found in the Western Desert by an oil worker, and has been described as a time capsule akin to Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Following the remarkable discovery, his nephew William Pryor-Bennett, 62, has spoken of his family’s hopes they may find the body and lay Fl Sgt Copping to rest with a proper funeral.

The defense attaché at the British embassy in Cairo is due to visit the RAF Kittyhawk in the next few weeks and has already confirmed a search of a 20 mile radius of the plane will be conducted.


Mr Pryor-Bennett said his family had until now believed the young pilot had died in crash. Instead, the wreckage of the P-40 plane suggests he made a make-shift shelter using his parachute outside before walking away to find help.

Mr Pryor-Bennett said: “My poor old mum didn’t live to find out what happened to her brother or see him come back home.

“But if there is any chance of finding him now and bringing him home so we can give him a funeral and pay our respects then I would fully support any search and say good luck to then.

“My own son, John, is willing to go over to Egypt and help with the search.

“I just hope they find him and bring him home.”

Flt Sgt Copping’s great-nephew, John Pryor-Bennett, 35, added: “He must have had such a horrible and lonely death so it would be wonderful if we could give him a funeral with his family around him.”

Flt Sgt Copping was based with the RAF’s 260 squadron during the North Africa campaign in World War Two in 1942.

On June 28, 1942 he was on a routine flight to take his damaged Kittyhawk plane from one airbase to another for repair when he lost his bearings and came down in the middle of the Western desert.

His devastated parents, Sydney and Adelaide Copping, received a telegram at their home in Southend, Essex, informing them their son was missing in action.

The family held out hope that he would one day return after the war before they accepted he had been killed in a P-40 plane crash.

Mr Pryor-Bennett, of Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland, said: “My nan, Dennis’ mother, lived with my parents for the last 11 years of her life.

“She had pictures of Dennis up in her room and there was one of him on our mantlepiece.

“My mother, Edna, used to refer to him as ‘my dear little brother’. My mother thought the world of him. We used to get flowers to mark his birthday.

“The family received a telegram that he was missing in action and they though Dennis had died in place crash in the desert, but it is now clear that he survived for some time.

“It had a devastating effect on my nan. I remember on one occasion she and my mum were doing the washing in a wringer and a number of planes went overhead. My nan looked up almost in hope and caught her hand in the wringer.

“When I was aged about nine, my brother and I would ask each other whether we thought uncle Dennis was still alive in the desert somewhere.”

F/Sgt Copping was the youngest of five brothers and sisters: Lillian, Lionel, Gordon and Edna.

Plans are also underway to try and recover the Kittyhawk, which was found by a Polish oil company worker by chance.

The RAF Museum at Hendon, north London, is working with the defense attache to secure the aircraft and return it to the UK.

The name Kittyhawk was given to the models equivalent to the P-40D and all later variants. Gift aviation enthusiasts or pilots with quality P-40 aircraft models only from Showcase Models!


May 3 2012

P-40 Warhawk through the eyes of Joel Thorvaldson

Known as a veteran of 3 wars, a hundred of combat missions and a pilot who flew almost all the aircraft back in wartime, Joel D. Thorvaldson is surely asked by many for him to write a book of his 64 years uninterrupted service with the military forces.

All these memories, missions and accomplishments of Thorvaldson began in Utah. He had a sister who married a pilot who became one of the first pilots for Northwest for mail delivering. He would send Thorvaldson his flying cloth helmet and during Thorvalsdson’s earlier years, he would wear it to school and that was when the excitement of being a pilot started.

Thorvaldson’s combat was all in use of the P-40 Warhawk aircraft. Thorvaldson described his experience with the P-40 a good and maneuverable airplane. He would make a fast pass at the enemy, break loose and come back, reverse turn with the Zeros, come over top, that is how he would get them.

Thorvaldson liked the P-40 since it was equipped with wing bomb mounts and he even used it once on a mission to bomb the Ramu valley with 265 pound bombs. Thorvaldson decorated and named the right side of his airpplane as “Mr. Five by Five” and the left side named “Punkins” – which was derived after his wife’s nickname.

This P-40 aircraft built by Curtiss was originally intended for delivery to Chinese Air Force and had Nationalist Chinese markings applied in the factory but instead, it was forced into service with the 5th Air Force.

Are you a fan of the aviation warplanes? Get your own P-40 Warhawk model airplanes and see many other nostalgic jet model planes only in Warplanes.



Mar 25 2011

P-40 inspired custom bike

As a youngster growing up in Taiwan, Nick Gargano was a natural fan of the 1st American Volunteer Group of the Chinese Air Force in the early 1940s, more popularly known as the Flying Tigers. The pilots wore jackets with the Nationalist Chinese flag-now flown by Taiwan-giving them special meaning to the Taipei-born Gargano.

Eventually motorcycles became a focus of Gargano’s life, and two-strokes the object of his devotion. An ingenious amalgamation of parts, his P40 Flying Tiger is powered by a Yamaha RZR350R two-stroke motor rebuilt by Jay Mendoza, featuring a Pro Design Cool Head and custom stainless steel Jim Lomas expansion chambers with one-off titanium mufflers. was the source of many custom parts, including an aluminum radiator, billet clutch housing and aluminum boost bottle, while RGV Steve’s Motorcycles supplied custom rear sets, headlight and aluminum kickstand.

To modernize the chassis, a late-model Yamaha YZF-R6 front end was grafted to the bike and a Honda NSR250 single-sided swingarm with a Penske shock was installed. Kunihide Okamoto sourced exotic Japanese parts, including the gauges and solo seat cowl.

But, the centerpiece of the bike is its graphic treatment. “The flashing shark’s teeth of the Curtis-Wright P-40s and trademark as Flying Tigers are world famous. I have seen many different versions of the Flying Tiger paint theme on cars and motorcycles,” Gargano explains, “so to honor the AVG, I decided to build my version of the famous paint theme featuring the shark mouth. I used Illustrator to design the over-theme of the bike and decal placement, and had the bike painted to my design.” Having accomplished his goal, Gargano is selling the motorcycle and moving on to a Suzuki RG500-based project.

The result is a stunning tribute to the brave men who rallied to protect an American ally from aggression in the days preceding our country’s official involvement in World War II.

Mar 18 2011

Minot pilot and 4 other pilots to fly WWII aircraft

Minot pilot Warren Pietsch, three other pilots from North Dakota and one from Iowa will make a trip next week in World War II aircraft which hasn’t been attempted in these planes for 70 years.

The planes and pilots with the Texas Flying Legends Museum are going to St. Maarten, an island in the northeast Caribbean about 186 miles east of Puerto Rico, where they’ll take part in the 25th anniversary of the St. Barths Bucket Regatta.

Pilots and the planes making the trip are:

- Warren Pietsch, of Minot, flying the “Aleutian Tiger,” a P-40K Warhawk.

- Bob Odegaard, of Kindred, flying “Whistling Death,” a Goodyear FG-1D Corsair.

- Casey Odegaard, of Kindred, flying “Dakota Kid II,” a P-51D Mustang.

- Dr. Henry Reichert, of Bismarck, and Doug Rozendaal, of Clear Lake, Iowa, flying “Betty’s Dream,” a B-25J.

“When the opportunity was presented to perform at the Bucket Regatta in 2011, we were very excited to make this mission a reality,” said Chris Griffith, of Scarborough, Maine, president of the flying museum. The museum is based out of Ellington Field in Houston.

“However, to accomplish the trip to St. Barths and back, we would have to cross more water than had ever been attempted since World War II in these planes. Combined with the necessary licenses required to make such a trip even possible, we had to pull all our resources together to make this happen,” Griffith said.

He said the 70-year-old aircraft will fly 1,100 nautical miles from Houston to St. Maarten for the three-day race, and then back to Houston.

Pietsch said this is a very significant trip and that he has never done something like this before.

“All four airplanes will travel together as a formation,” he said.

He said the P-40, which he will be flying, has the shortest range at about 400 miles.

“We will be making two stops between Houston and Fort Lauderdale (1,100 miles) and three stops between Fort Lauderdale and St. Maarten (1,200 miles). We will be stopping in Great Exuma, Bahamas-Providenciales, Turks and Caicos-Aguadilla, Puerto Rico and then St. Maarten,” he said.

He said the trip will take about 14 hours of flying each way.

During the regatta, the planes will take off from Arrindell Aviation Services, their base of operations in St. Maarten, to perform a formation fly-by every morning over St. Barths. Every afternoon they will also perform a 20-minute air show over Shell Beach, St. Barths, after each day’s race.

The pilots, along with their planes, also will be at Arrindell Aviation each afternoon to meet the public.

Planes with the Texas Flying Legends Museum are flown from Texas to North Dakota each spring, to Maine each summer and back to Texas in the fall.

The museum also has one of only two flying Japanese Zeros left in the world and “Little Horse,” a P-51D stable-mate of Dakota Kid II.

The four planes in the St. Maarten trip and possibly two other planes will be on display at the Dakota Territory Air Museum in Minot when it opens May 14. The planes will remain there for about two months.

Mar 11 2011

Waterloo Air Show to feature Canadian Armed Forces’ Warbirds

BRESLAU — Snowbirds, Skyhawks, hornets and other flying things will be buzzing the sky above the Region of Waterloo international airport this August, showing off their skill to an expected 40,000 people planted on the ground.

For the first time in its three-year history, the Waterloo Air Show will feature the big three airborne spectacles of Canada’s armed forces.

Organizers have added the military’s professional parachute team, the Skyhawks, and an F-18 Hornet demo team, to the top-drawing Snowbirds, the iconic acrobatic squadron that has been thrilling crowds for decades.

“The fact we have all three . . . is fantastic news. It goes to show the Waterloo Air Show is being recognized by the Canadian military as a great venue to show off their assets,” said Diana Spremo, director of marketing for the air show, which runs Aug. 20–21.

Organizers also hope to add several American acts to the show, including fighter jets and big air tankers, although they’re still waiting on confirmation.

The air show will also feature historical Second World War planes like the F-86 Sabre, the P-40 Kittyhawk and four yellow Harvard trainers. American stunt pilot Mike Wiskus will also perform.

There will plenty of on-the-ground exhibits, plus food, a kids’ zone, beer tent and more. Organizers are also hoping to set up a special venue that honors local veterans. Check out the air show’s official website for more details as they’re released.




Feb 25 2011

Franklin County renames airport to honor WWII Aviator

On Feb. 16, Franklin County re-named its airport in honor of a dedicated aviator that helped to bridge the two eras.

The airport is now known as the Franklin County Apalachicola Regional Airport – Cleve Randolph Field in recognition of the significant role Randolph played in founding and developing the airport ever since the Army constructed the airfield as a training facility on the eve of World War II.

At the ceremony attended by about 200 people, inside the hangar of Garlick Environmental on the airport grounds, dignitaries paid tribute to Randolph’s work, outlined in the resolution passed unanimously by the county commission on Jan. 4.

“This is a great day, and one we have been waiting for for far too long,” said Ken Tucker, a World War II tail gunner who was a contemporary of Randolph’s. “He dedicated his life to the airport. You did a great deed when you dedicated this airport to him. It has great potential; keep in mind what you have here.”

Former Clerk of Courts Pal Rivers, a retired Navy aviator who earned his pilot’s wings together with Randolph when the two trained during the war at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, was given the honor of reading the resolution to the gathering.

The resolution summed up the life of a man dedicated from his youth, when he worked summers at the airport as it was being constructed, to the expanding field of aviation.

In an interview after the ceremony, Rivers told of how the young Randolph, while away at school in Cullman, Ala., had secretly used the money his parents sent him to take flying lessons, and then flew home one day to the astonishment of his parents.

Because he had prior military service as a cadet commander in a civilian role, Randolph entered the service as an aviation cadet, and after the war, returned to the county and later opened a flying school at the airport, where he lived with his wife Smiles, and their four children, in the abandoned Army barracks there.

Another of Randolph’s contemporaries, Bubba Gander, who also earned his naval aviator wings after the outbreak of the war in Corpus Christi, Texas, sat in the audience’s front row, and clapped appreciatively at the recounting of his friend’s exploits. Another military contemporary, retired Army Col. Harry Buzzett, who served as best man at the Randolphs’ wedding, was absent due to medical treatments he is receiving in Tampa.

The resolution went on to mention that Randolph taught more than 100 local people to fly at the airport. Among them, said Rivers afterwards, was Rivers’ wife of 61 years, the former Anna Laurie McLeod, who learned to fly from Randolph while her husband was at sea on duty assignments during his Navy career as an operations officer.

Randolph opened a seaplane landing base west of Apalachicola, which became a favorite of the late Homer Marks, a prominent businessman who loved to fly to Lake Wimico to hunt geese, Rivers said.

Randolph, who operated the flying school for almost three decades and was the first to open a round-the-clock fuel station and office, regularly flew patients to larger hospitals for medical services, reads the resolution.

Rivers, a native of Green Cove Springs, began his friendship with Randolph after the war, when he would visit his wife’s hometown. Among these trips were the times Rivers flew a Douglas DC-3, like the one on display at the airport Saturday, on cross-country trips out of his duty station overseeing a reserve squadron in Akron, Ohio. “We’d come down here and pick up a load of shrimp,” he said.

Apalachicola resident Bill Spohrer, a member of the International Air Cargo Association’s Hall of Fame, gazed lovingly after the ceremony at the cargo plane, similar to the three such aircraft his company, TAN Airlines, owned in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

That airplane, as well as the Curtiss P-40E Warhawk next to it, were flown down by the Liberty Foundation in honor of the occasion. Pilot Dan Brooks spoke at the ceremony, outlining the historic significance of the aircraft.

“The (P-40) was the most advanced fighter the Army Air Corps had,” he said, comparing it to the equivalent of today’s F-16 or F-22 jets.

With a 1,200-horsepower Allison V-12 engine, the P-40 flew combat missions out of Cole Bay in the Netherlands Antilles, before it was outclassed by the P-51 Mustang. “The military built over 12,000 of them and very few survive today,” he said. “Some guys dug it out of a dump in the ‘80s” and it was later restored by a Kissimmee businessman and is now on display by the Liberty Foundation.

The Douglas DC-3 on display was in the Normandy invasion, Brooks said, and was flown back to France for the 50th anniversary of that historic beach assault, the largest in human history. Later it would be used as part of the Greenland Expedition Society’s rescue of lost aircraft from nearly 270’ below the surface of the ice cap off Greenland.


Feb 18 2011

Flights in Old Warbirds to be Offered in New Venture

The New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum in Wanaka is about to offer a new tourist attraction, the ultimate aviation gift or day out – a ride in a world War I Kittyhawk fighter and other warbirds.

The said museum in Wanaka is about to close and hand its assets over to the Air Force Museum in Wigram in Christchurch and the Warbirds over Wanaka Community Trust.

In its place will be another venture, which organizers say will be world class, offering hands-on attractions expected to attract tourists.

Details have yet to be revealed but they could include fights in World War I or World War II aircraft, one of them possibly being the Curtis P-40 Kittyhawk.

The Kittyhawk, which flew at up to 500kmh, was one of the most successful American fighter aircraft of the war and more than 13,000 were built.

Some came to New Zealand after pleas to the British and American governments for aircraft to defend New Zealand.

Trust board chairman Murray Cleverley said the Wanaka museum would sell one of its hangars and keep one which it would develop for the new attraction at a cost of about $2 million.

He would not reveal all the details but said there would be a “whole lot of attractions” appealing to men, women, and children.

He said they were talking to several operators of a range of aircraft to offer people a hands-on experience and rides, including Kittyhawk flights. “They are quite excited about the opportunity.”

He said details had yet to be finalized on aircraft and the cost of a flight but a short joyride in a Kittyhawk could cost up to $2000. “I was in one last year and it was absolutely mind blowing.” He said he was still smiling a week after he did barrel rolls over Lake Wanaka in the Kittyhawk. “The perfect turning-50 gift from a family is to throw him in one of those babies.”

Mr Cleverley said the trust had also asked the Government for one of the air force’s 17 decommissioned Skyhawk fighter bombers which are to be scrapped, sold for spare parts or given to museums.

The New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum Trust was established in 1993 to hold a collection of artifacts, archives and other articles of historic interest and tell the story of men who served as fighter pilots.

However, Mr Cleverley said, like many museums, it was struggling and no longer viable and the decision was made to close it, hand over artifacts to the Air Force Museum and start the new venture in the hangar.


Feb 4 2011

P-40 Fighter Ace: James B. Morehead

Known as “Colonel” to his many friends and business associates in Petaluma, where he’s lived for the past 35 years, Morehead earned the moniker, “Wildman of Hamilton” for flying upside down from Hamilton Field to Sacramento in 1941. At 94, he still possesses the steely nerved self-confidence of the airborne warrior that earned a chest-full of medals, including two Distinguished Service Crosses (our country’s second-ranking decoration for extraordinary heroism), the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star and membership in the Legion of Valor.

His tales of flying the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk in air battles over the Pacific are mesmerizing, and well-documented in his book, “In My Sights: The Memoir of a P-40 Ace,” but even if you don’t read his book, you can listen to him speak of being among the highly selected pilots who were destined for aerial combat and how he “really laid into those enemy bombers,” and “just riddled that plane right up to the cockpit” with his six 50-caliber machine guns as he fought not only for his own survival but to protect our country’s freedom in the early stages of World War II.

Of his first taste of aerial combat as a P-40 pilot, Morehead said, “I was just hoping to get through it — to get experience for the next encounter.”

After the war, he became a squadron commander in Italy and base commander of Chico Air Force Base before going to Formosa (Taiwan), where he trained Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Chinese Air Force pilots to fly jet fighters. He then served at the Pentagon until retiring as a “full bird” colonel in 1967.

But there’s much more to Morehead’s story than being an ace fighter pilot and decorated war hero. In 1967, while living in San Rafael, he and his wife, Betty, purchased the F Street Apartments in Petaluma and operated them until 1975, the year they, along with son Jimmy and daughters Melanie and Myrna, moved to a ranch on Sonoma Mountain. Their company, Morehead Enterprises, then purchased a 38-acre parcel on Dynamic Way, which they developed into Petaluma’s first industrial park. Another of their projects included developing 22 acres near Industrial Drive and Petaluma Boulevard North.

As a kid growing up hunting in rural Oklahoma, Morehead became a marksman with a hunting rifle, a talent he says enabled him to survive in air combat. Those childhood hunting experiences and other opportunities enabled him to become a renowned big game hunter whose mounted trophies from around the world impressively fill his home. Included in Morehead’s collection is a cape buffalo from Botswana, an African lion, a baboon from Ethiopia, a dik dik and a grizzly bear. Among the various species of antelope on display in his museum-like living room is a record book verifying the 12th largest antelope ever taken in Africa. A hyena pelt covers the door to his “bird room,” where his talent for taxidermy is displayed on the walls. He’s one of just 27 people in the world to have taken the “grand slam” of all six subspecies of wild turkey in North America, which he has mounted on the walls of his den.


Jan 28 2011

The Curtiss P-40N Warhawk

Here’s an amateur video of the Curtiss P-40N Warhawk in the Boeing Museum of Flight located in Seattle, WA.

The P-40 was not the fastest fighter and nobody ever claimed it was the best. But it had one priceless advantage over all the others — it was available when needed most. On December 7, 1941, P-40s were the most effective US aircraft to get airborne at Pearl Harbor. Just two pilots — Lts. George Welch and Ken Taylor — shot down seven attackers between them. Shortly thereafter, the American Volunteer Group, better known as the “Flying Tigers,” made history and headlines flying P-40s in China. Throughout the war, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Russia also flew the Curtiss fighter.

First flown in 1939, the P-40 was kept in production until 1944 with nearly 15,000 of all models delivered. The British called it the Tomahawk (B and C models) and Kittyhawk (D and E models) while the F through R versions were known as Warhawks in U.S. service.

The Museum’s Warhawk may have the lowest flight time of any surviving warbird. It was flown directly from the Curtiss factory in Buffalo, NY, to storage near Tucson, Arizona in 1945, with only 60 hours of total flight time. It was later put on display in Griffith Park in Los Angeles for a number of years, until noted movie pilot Frank Tallman acquired it and loaned the fighter to the San Diego Aerospace Museum. Doug Champlin purchased the P-40 from the museum in 1972 and had it fully restored by Dick Martin at Carlsbad, California in 1979.

The markings are typical of the Chinese-American Composite Wing circa 1944. The plane was named after O’Reilly’s Daughter, a popular Army Air Forces drinking song.

Jan 20 2011

WWII ‘ace’ pilot honored by Petaluma

A hard-scrabble childhood in Depression-era Oklahoma steeled the young Jim Morehead for even rougher days ahead in dogfights with Japanese and Nazi pilots in World War II.

Retired Col. James B. Morehead, 94, became one of the country’s most highly decorated fighter aces, winning two Distinguished Service Crosses, a Silver Star and 16 other air medals.

Next month, the Petaluma resident will be honored as part of an exhibition at the Petaluma Museum called “Flight: A Tribute to Aviation.” The exhibit opening Feb. 2 will include a personal tribute on Feb. 5, which will be dedicated as James B. Morehead Day in the city of Petaluma.

The exhibit will trace American aviation history, including the 100th anniversary of first airmail flight, when the young flyer Fred Wiseman braved dicey weather on Feb. 17, 1911 and delivered mail from Petaluma to Santa Rosa.

Today, Morehead lives on a ranch on the outskirts of Petaluma where he displays his huge selection hunting and fishing trophies and memorabilia from his military service, which started in 1940 at Stockton Field. He retired from a desk job at the Pentagon in 1967.

Morehead, who friends address simply as “Colonel,” graduated in April 1941 from the Army Air Corps flight school and was the sole pilot trainee among 120 students to be selected for assignment to a fighter unit at Hamilton Army Airfield.

He credits his experience as a youth hunting wild game to help feed his family for his success and composure as a fighter pilot.

If he hadn’t been in the hospital recuperating from a mid-air collision, Morehead would have been sent with the rest of his unit to the Philippines after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He said many of his buddies ended up being captured and forced to death in the Bataan Death March.

Morehead fought and survived against the odds during the “early, dark days” of fighting in the southwest Pacific, when the Japanese were scoring victory after victory, said his friend and military historian Leon Delisle.

“He is a great man and a true American treasure. There is no one like him,” Delisle said. “He represents everything that is good about America. He is a kind man who has seen a lot of war, and he is not jaded by his experiences.”

Morehead is credited with seven enemy kills as a flying ace, seven Japanese fighters and one Nazi, he said.

April 25, 1942 was a pivotal day in Morehead’s life and, he believes, for the war in the Pacific.

Every day for more than a month, Japanese forces had bombed the Australian city of Darwin. Morehead’s unit had recently lost two commanders in battle.

Just 25 years old, then-2nd Lt. Morehead — exactly one year out of cadet school but with several air battles already behind him — led a flight of eight P-40 fighter planes toward a formation of 31 Japanese “Betty” bombers and their accompanying fighter escorts returning from Darwin.

“I did a slow roll,” he recounted, and surfaced out of the way of the bomber’s rear-facing guns.

“I led the lead bomber by 90 feet,” he said, recalling how he timed his fire to strike the plane. “My bullets went right into his cockpit and engine.”

He then raked a second bomber, destroying it as well. Then, Morehead shot down one of the Japanese Zero fighters protecting the bombers. In all, 11 enemy planes went down with no losses for Morehead’s crew.

For his actions that day, Morehead, his own plane heavily damaged in the firefight, was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the Army.

Although modest about his individual actions, Morehead counts the battle as a decisive one.

“I think the Japanese changed their objective from the pearl of the Pacific, Australia, to Guadalcanal, where they got bogged down there fighting our Navy and Marines,” he said.

Later in the war, Morehead began training rookie pilots for combat in Europe and the Pacific. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Morehead downed a German Messerschmitt 109 fighter. For two years during the Korean war, he helped train Chinese Nationalist pilots.

Morehead takes the local honor, complete with a day dedicated in his honor and a proclamation from the mayor, with humility.

“If they must,” he joked, “I will comply.”