Portela Airport – Lisbon
USAAF 79FS/ 20FG
Lockheed P-38F Lightning 41-7587
GB → North Africa
Lt Jack Ilfrey USA
It was the first American aircraft to land in Portugal.
The Lightning lost one drop tank during the flight and would be unable to reach North Africa so the pilot, Jack Ilfrey, diverted the flight to Lisbon where he landed. There was immediately interned by a Portuguese military patrol that transported him to the main building of the airport, where some german Lufhansa pilots were also.
Some time later he was transported back to his airplane in order to instruct a Portuguese pilot - Major Costa Macedo - about the instruments and flight procedures of his airplane, that had already been supplied with fuel.
During the conversation with the Portuguese airman another P-38 landed and Ilfrey saw his chance, eluded the vigilance of the Portuguese officer, fired the engines and followed to the runway. Costa Macedo fell from the wing and Ilfrey was able to take off and escape to Gibraltar.
This escape resulted in a diplomatic problem between Portugal and the USA. Even the internment location for the allied crews changed from Caldas da Rainha to Elvas because of this incident.
*“Aviões da Cruz de Cristo” – Mário Cannongia Lopes