Imagine going for a walk in the woods and coming across a World War II German war plane! Well, just such a plane was discovered in a forest near the Russian city of St Petersburg (then called Leningrad) in 1989.
The plane was a Focke-Wulf 190, and it was the main fighter used by the German Luftwaffe (air force). This particular FW190 was built in April 1943 in a factory in Bremen.
Who was the pilot? His name was Paul Ratz. He was victorious in several air battles and survived three crashes. His plane came down behind enemy lines.
So what happened? It seems that Ratz took off from Siwerskaja air base, carrying a 550 lb (250 kg) bomb, on 19th July 1943. The Germany Army was invading Russia and attacking Leningrad in particular. The Siege of Leningrad was one of the biggest and bloodiest battles of World War II. Many hundreds of thousands died on both sides.
Ratz was to fly over enemy lines and attack an armored train. Armored trains had guns mounted on them, and Ratz’s plane was damaged. He was forced to land in the forest. He left his plane and headed west, back toward the front line. However, he was captured by the Russians and lived in a POW (Prisoner of War) camp until 1949.
He died in 1989 without ever knowing that his plane had been found.
The plane was taken out of the forest by helicopter and studied. In the 1990s efforts were made to fix it. Later it was purchased by the Flying Heritage Collection, owned by Paul Allen. He completed the restoration in the United Kingdom and the United States.
During the restoration, it was discovered that the fuel lines were blocked and there was a cloth rag in the engine. The engine had only been put in a few days before Ratz took off. Allied POWs often worked in German factories, so one of them might have sabotaged the engine.
It is now the only working FW190 in existence, and it has been flown in demonstrations.