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In 1989, the deep forests outside Leningrad were home to a relic somehow overlooked and forgotten since 1943. In these forests, some people saw a Wulf – a Focke-Wulf Fw 190 aka The Butcher Bird.
The seemingly untouched warbird lay in between a group of young Birch trees, its paint still largely intact. Its state was so well-preserved that it looked like it crashed only a few days before it was found.
When experts arrived at the scene, the plane was properly identified as a Fw 190A-5 that once belonged to the 4th Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 54. Inside the cockpit was the pilot’s leather flying helmet along with his headset.
Its only damage from the wheels-up-belly-landing were the crushed wing leading edges and a cracked spar.
The pilot, who was later identified as Paul Ratz, only joined the squadron on July 9, 1943, just 10 days before the crash. Ratz flew with his squadron to attack a Soviet armored train but was apparently hit by Soviet flak, causing the crash.
However, the examiners later found an oily rag had been inserted into a critical section of its engine. This opened up the possibility of sabotage during its manufacture by blocking an oil line.
After the crash, Ratz was picked up by a Soviet patrol and held as a prisoner of war until 1949.
Ratz returned to Germany that same year and started a family, passing away just before his aircraft was found in the Russian forest.
Around 1991, the Fw 190 was removed from the forest using a heavy-lift helicopter for preservation. The aircraft was eventually bought by Paul Allen, the Microsoft billionaire, who fully restored the plane to flying condition over 20 years.
Today, this Fw 190 is considered to be the most completely authentic Fw 190 that is currently airworthy. It is now based at the Flying Heritage Collection in Seattle.