D. B. Cooper

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D. B. Cooper
DBCooper.jpg
A 1972 FBI composite drawing of Cooper
DisappearedNovember 24, 1971 (50 years ago)
StatusUnknown
Other namesDan Cooper
Known forHijacking a Boeing 727 and parachuting from the plane mid-flight before disappearing
Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305
Northwest Airlines Boeing 727-51 N467US.jpg
N467US, the aircraft involved in the hijacking
Hijacking
DateNovember 24, 1971
SummaryHijacking
SiteBetween Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington
Aircraft
Aircraft typeBoeing 727-51
OperatorNorthwest Orient Airlines
RegistrationN467US
Flight originPortland International Airport
DestinationSeattle-Tacoma International Airport
Occupants42
Passengers36 (including Cooper)
Crew6
Fatalities0 or 1 (hijacker, fate unknown)
InjuriesNone or 1 (hijacker, fate unknown)
Survivors41 or 42 (hijacker, fate unknown)

D. B. Cooper is a media epithet used to refer to an unidentified man who hijacked Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305, a Boeing 727 aircraft operated by Northwest Orient Airlines, in United States airspace on the afternoon of November 24, 1971. The aircraft was flying from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington. The hijacker extorted $200,000 in ransom (equivalent to $1,338,000 in 2021), asked to be flown to Mexico City, then parachuted to an uncertain fate over southwestern Washington part-way through the second flight. A small portion of the ransom was found along the banks of the Columbia River in 1980, which triggered renewed interest but ultimately only deepened the mystery; the great majority of the ransom remains unrecovered. The man purchased his airline ticket using the alias Dan Cooper but, because of a news miscommunication, became known in popular culture as D. B. Cooper.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) maintained an active investigation for 45 years after the hijacking. Despite compiling an extensive case file over that period, the FBI reached no definitive conclusions regarding Cooper's true identity or fate. The crime remains the only unsolved case of air piracy in commercial aviation history. Numerous theories of widely varying plausibility have been proposed over the years by investigators, reporters, and amateur enthusiasts. The FBI's best guess is that Cooper did not survive the jump, for several reasons: the rainy and dangerous conditions for skydiving on the night of the hijacking; Cooper's lack of proper equipment; the landing area being a wilderness; the apparent lack of detailed knowledge Cooper had of his landing area; and the rest of the ransom money never turning up even after decades, suggesting it was never spent. The FBI officially suspended active investigation of the case in July 2016.

The hijacking had major implications for commercial aviation and airport security. Cooper's brazen hijacking, and a slew of Cooper imitators in the following year, caused security procedure to become stricter. Metal detectors and compulsory searching of baggage became standard, and paying for flights the same day of their departure with cash became a cause for scrutiny. Aircraft design was modified with Cooper vanes that would prevent the aft staircase from being lowered while in flight. By 1973, the pace of hijackings greatly slowed as the new security measures successfully dissuaded would-be hijackers whose motive was only money.

Hijacking[edit]

FBI wanted poster of D. B. Cooper

On Thanksgiving eve, November 24, 1971, a man carrying a black attaché case approached the flight counter of Northwest Orient Airlines at Portland International Airport. He purchased his airline ticket as "Dan Cooper" and used cash[1] to purchase a one-way ticket on Flight 305, a thirty-minute trip north to Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (Sea–Tac). Cooper boarded the aircraft, a Boeing 727-100 (FAA registration N467US), carrying with him a briefcase and a brown paper bag.[2] He took seat 18-E on the last row and ordered a drink: bourbon and soda.[3] Eyewitnesses described Cooper as being middle-aged, approximately in his mid-40's, wearing a black or brown business suit, black raincoat, with a thin black tie and white shirt.[4][5]

Flight 305, approximately one-third full, departed Portland on schedule at 2:50 p.m. PST.[6] Shortly after takeoff, Cooper handed a note to Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant situated directly behind him in a jump seat.[7] Schaffner, assuming the note contained a lonely businessman's phone number, dropped it unopened into her purse.[8] Cooper leaned toward her and whispered, "Miss, you'd better look at that note. I have a bomb."[9]

The note was printed in neat, all-capital letters with a felt-tip pen.[10] Its exact wording is unknown, as Cooper later reclaimed it,[11] but Schaffner recalled that it mentioned the bomb and directed her to sit in the seat beside Cooper.[12] Schaffner did as requested, then quietly asked to see the bomb. Cooper opened his briefcase long enough for her to glimpse eight red cylinders in two rows of four, assumed to be dynamite.[13] A wire was attached to the cylinders, and a large cylindrical battery was in the briefcase as well.[13][14] Upon closing the briefcase he stated his demands to Schaffner, who wrote it down and carried it to the cockpit where it was then transmitted by Captain Scott to Northwest Flight Operations in Minnesota. The note read, in part: "He requests $200,000 in a knapsack by 5:00pm. He wants two front parachutes, two back parachutes. He wants the money in negotiable American currency."[15] [16] Cooper would soon begin making further demands, with another flight attendant, 22 year-old Tina Mucklow, taking over for Schaffner as liaison between Cooper and the cockpit.[17][18] Cooper demanded that fuel trucks were to meet the plane when they landed in Seattle and that everyone was to remain in their seats while Mucklow brought the money onto the plane. Cooper stated he would let the passengers go once the money was onboard and that the last item to be brought aboard would be the parachutes.[19]

The captain, William A. Scott, contacted Seattle–Tacoma Airport air traffic control, which informed local and federal authorities. The 35 other passengers were told that their arrival in Seattle would be delayed because of a "minor mechanical difficulty".[20] Northwest Orient's president, Donald Nyrop, authorized payment of the ransom and ordered all employees to cooperate fully with the hijacker's demands.[21] The aircraft circled Puget Sound for approximately two hours to allow Seattle police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sufficient time to assemble Cooper's parachutes and ransom money, and to mobilize emergency personnel.[22]

During the flight from Portland to Seattle, Cooper demanded that Flight Attendant Tina Mucklow remain by his side at all times.[23] Mucklow recalled that Cooper appeared familiar with the local terrain; at one point he remarked, "Looks like Tacoma down there", as the aircraft flew above it. He also correctly mentioned that McChord Air Force Base was only a twenty-minute drive (at that time) from Seattle Tacoma Airport. [24] Mucklow would later tell reporters: "He was not nervous. He seemed rather nice and he was not cruel or nasty."[25] While the plane held a holding pattern over Seattle, Mucklow and Cooper made small talk. She asked Cooper why he picked Northwest Airlines to hijack and he responded "It's not because I have a grudge against your airlines, it's just because I have a grudge."[26] He asked where she was from and she told him she was originally from Pennsylvania but was living in Minneapolis at the time, to which he responded that Minnesota was very nice country.[27] When she asked him where he was from he became upset and stated he wouldn't answer that.[28] When Cooper asked her if she was a smoker, she indicated that she had quit. He nevertheless offered her a cigarette, which she accepted.[29]

FBI records indicate that Cooper briefly spoke to an unidentified passenger while the plane maintained its holding pattern over Seattle. Passenger George Labissoniere was interviewed by FBI agents later that night and stated he visited the restroom directly behind Cooper on several occasions. Following one visit he found his path blocked by Mucklow and a passenger in a cowboy hat who was hassling Mucklow about the alleged mechanical issue with the aircraft. Labissoniere stated Cooper was initially amused by the interaction but eventually became irritated and told the man to return to his seat, but this had no effect and he continued to hassle Mucklow. Labissoniere claimed he would eventually talk "the cowboy" into returning to his seat.[30] Mucklow would tell the FBI a milder version of this story, indicating that a passenger came back to her looking for a sports magazine because he was bored. She stated that they went to an area directly behind Cooper where they looked for magazines until he finally took a copy of The New Yorker and returned to his seat. When she returned to Cooper, he told her "if that is a Sky Marshal, I don't want any more of that."[31] Despite briefly interacting with Cooper, "the cowboy" never made a statement to law enforcement and has never been identified.[32]

FBI agents assembled the ransom money from several Seattle-area banks—10,000 unmarked twenty-dollar bills, most with serial numbers beginning with the letter "L", indicating issuance by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco[33]and made a microfilm photograph of each of them.[34] Cooper rejected the military-issue parachutes offered by McChord AFB personnel, instead demanding four civilian parachutes with manually operated ripcords. Seattle police obtained them from a local skydiving school.[35]

Passengers released[edit]

Boeing 727 with the aft airstair open

At approximately 5:24 PST, Captain Scott was informed that the parachutes had all arrived at the airport and notified Cooper that they would be landing soon. The aircraft landed at Seattle Tacoma Airport at 5:46 PST.[36] Scott asked Cooper's permission to park the aircraft away from the main terminal in a partially lit runway and Cooper agreed.[37] One of Cooper's demands had been that only one representative of the airline would be allowed to approach the plane with his items and also that the only entrance and exit to the aircraft would be from the front doorway via mobile air stairs.[38] As instructed by Cooper, and with the passengers still remaining in their seats, Mucklow went to retrieve the ransom money, exiting the plane via front doorway once the mobile stairway had been attached. Because of this awkward arrangement, she was forced to carry the large money bag from the front of the plane, in full view of the passengers, to Cooper sitting in the rear.[39][40] With the money in hand, Cooper finally agreed to release the passengers.[41] As Cooper inspected his money and the passengers were unloading, Mucklow attempted to break the tension and jokingly asked Cooper if she could have some of the money. He readily agreed and handed her a packet of bills. She immediately returned it and explained to him that it was against company policy to accept gratuities. She would also later tell FBI agents that Cooper had tried to tip her and the other two flight attendants earlier in the flight with money from his own pocket, but they had also declined, citing the company policy. [42]

With the passengers safely away, only Cooper, the three flight crew, and the three cabin crew remained aboard Flight 305.[43] Continuing to act in accordance with Cooper's wishes, Mucklow would make at least three additional trips outside the aircraft to retrieve the parachutes and bring them back to Cooper still seated in the rear of the plane.[44] At some point while Mucklow was ferrying the parachutes, flight attendant Alice Hancock approached Cooper and asked him if she could get her purse, which was stored in a compartment located behind his seat. He assured her that was fine and that "he wouldn't bite her." She then asked Cooper if the flight attendants could leave and he said "yes".[45] Hancock and Schaffner would both leave the plane soon thereafter. When Mucklow dropped off the final parachute she also gave Cooper a set of paper instructions on how to use a parachute and he stated that he didn't need them.[46]

The refueling process was delayed; a second and later a third truck were brought in to complete refueling.[47] During this delay, Mucklow would recall Cooper complaining to her that the money was delivered in a cloth bag instead of a knapsack like he had requested and that he'd forced improvise a new way to transport the money.[48] She recalled Cooper pulling out a pocket knife, cutting the canopy from one of the reserve chutes, and attempting to stuff some of the money into the empty parachute bag.[49] The FBI would make a note that in this portion of her interview her recollections were rather vague.[50]

An FAA official requested a face-to-face meeting with Cooper aboard the aircraft, which was denied.[51] Cooper grew impatient, saying, "This shouldn't take so long", and, "Let's get this show on the road."[52][53] Cooper outlined his flight plan to the cockpit crew: a southeast course toward Mexico City at the minimum airspeed possible without stalling the aircraft—approximately 100 knots (185 km/h; 115 mph)—at a maximum 10,000-foot (3,000 m) altitude. He further specified that the landing gear remain deployed in the takeoff/landing position, the wing flaps be lowered 15 degrees, and the cabin remain unpressurized.[54] First officer William J. Rataczak informed Cooper that the aircraft's range was limited to approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) under the specified flight configuration, which meant that a second refueling would be necessary before entering Mexico. Cooper and the crew discussed options and agreed on Reno–Tahoe International Airport as the refueling stop.[55][56] Cooper further directed that the aircraft take off with the rear exit door open and its airstair extended.[57] Northwest's home office objected, on grounds that it was unsafe to take off with the aft staircase deployed. Cooper countered that it was indeed safe, but he would not argue the point; he would lower it once they were airborne.[57] However, this condition was based on Mucklow staying on board to assist in the operation.[58]

Back in the air[edit]

Crew of Flight 305 upon landing in Reno: (l to r) Captain William Scott, Co-Pilot Bill Rataczak, Flight Engineer Harold E. Anderson, Flight Attendant Tina Mucklow

At approximately 7:40 p.m., the Boeing 727 took off with only Cooper, Mucklow, Captain Scott, First Officer Rataczak, and Flight Engineer Harold E. Anderson on board.[59] Two F-106 fighter aircraft from McChord AFB followed behind the airliner, one above it and one below, out of Cooper's view.[60] A Lockheed T-33 trainer, diverted from an unrelated Air National Guard mission, also shadowed the 727, with all three jets having to fly in S patterns to stay behind the slow moving 727.[61]

Once in the air, Cooper and Mucklow began to discuss lowering the aft stairs with Mucklow telling Cooper that she feared being sucked out of the aircraft.[62] Mucklow then expressed this fear to the flight crew and they suggested that she come up to the cockpit and retrieve an emergency rope that she could use to tie herself to a seat. Cooper rejected this proposal, stating that he didn't want her going up front or any of them coming back.[63] Mucklow continued to press Cooper about her fear of lowering the stairs in flight and asked that he cut some cord from a spare parachute and create a safety line for her, with Cooper finally telling her that he would lower the stairs himself.[64] With the stairs successfully lowered, Cooper no longer needed Mucklow's assistance and told her to go to the cockpit, close the curtain partition behind her (separating the Coach and First Class sections), and to not come back again.[65] Before she left, she approached Cooper and begged him to "Please, please take the bomb with you.".[66] Cooper responded that he was either going to disarm it or take it with him. [67] Mucklow would see Cooper one final time as she turned to close the curtain partition, later stating that he was standing in the aisle tying something, possibly the money bag, around his waist.[68][69] Only four to five minutes had elapsed between when the plane took off in Seattle to when Mucklow entered the cockpit, where she would remain for the rest of the flight to Reno.[70]

At approximately 8:00 p.m., a warning light flashed in the cockpit, indicating that the aft airstair apparatus had been activated. The pilots asked on the cabin intercom if Cooper needed assistance. Cooper picked up the cabin phone and replied, "No."[53] This was the last message heard from Cooper.[71] The crew soon noticed a subjective change of air pressure, indicating that the aft door was open.[72] At approximately 8:13 p.m., the aircraft's tail section sustained a sudden upward movement, large enough to require trimming to bring the plane back to level flight.[73] As the flight approached Reno and with the crew unsure whether Cooper was aboard, Mucklow called over the intercom to Cooper telling him that they would be landing soon and that he would need to raise the stairs to keep the plane from being damaged. She would continue making similar requests for him to raise the stairs as they made their descent but received no answer.[74]

At 11:02 p.m., Flight 305 finally landed, with the aft stairs still deployed, at the Reno–Tahoe International Airport.[75] FBI agents, state troopers, sheriff's deputies, and Reno police were on hand, although they did not approach the plane in case the bomb was still aboard. Captain Scott confirmed Cooper was no longer aboard, and an FBI bomb squad reported the cabin was clean after a thirty-minute sweep.[76]

Investigation[edit]

FBI agents recovered 66 unidentified latent fingerprints aboard the airliner.[77] The agents also found Cooper's black clip-on tie, his tie clip and two of the four parachutes,[16] one of which had been opened and two shroud lines cut from the canopy.[78] Authorities interviewed eyewitnesses in Portland, Seattle and Reno. A series of composite sketches was developed.[79]

Local police and FBI agents immediately began questioning possible suspects.[80] One of the first was an Oregon man with a minor police record named D. B. Cooper, contacted by Portland police on the off-chance that the hijacker had used his real name or the same alias in a previous crime. He was quickly ruled out as a suspect; but a local reporter named James Long, rushing to meet an imminent deadline, confused the eliminated suspect's name with the pseudonym used by the hijacker.[81] A wire service reporter (Clyde Jabin of UPI by most accounts)[82][83] republished the error, followed by other media sources.[84] "D. B. Cooper" became the most widely remembered pseudonym.[73]

An animation of the 727's rear airstair deploying in flight, with Cooper jumping off. The gravity-operated apparatus remained open until the aircraft landed.

A precise search area was difficult to define, as even small differences in estimates of the aircraft's speed, or the environmental conditions along the flight path (which varied by location and altitude), changed Cooper's projected landing point considerably.[85] An important variable was the length of time Cooper remained in free fall before pulling his ripcord.[53] Neither of the Air Force F-106 pilots saw anything exit the airliner, either visually or on radar, nor did they see a parachute open; but at night, with extremely limited visibility and cloud cover obscuring any ground lighting below, an airborne black-clad human figure could easily have gone undetected.[86] The T-33 pilots never made visual contact with the 727.[87]

In an experimental re-creation, flying the same aircraft used in the hijacking in the same flight configuration, FBI agents pushed a 200-pound (91 kg) sled out of the open airstair and were able to reproduce the upward motion of the tail section and brief change in cabin pressure described by the flight crew at 8:13 p.m. The Flight Engineer onboard Flight 305 during the hijacking, Harold Anderson, was also aboard and he agreed that the sensation of the sled going off the stairs was identical to what he experienced that night.[88] Initial extrapolations placed Cooper's landing zone within an area on the southernmost outreach of Mount St. Helens, a few miles southeast of Ariel, Washington, near Lake Merwin, an artificial lake formed by a dam on the Lewis River.[89] Search efforts focused on Clark and Cowlitz counties, encompassing the terrain immediately south and north, respectively, of the Lewis River in southwest Washington.[90][91] FBI agents and sheriff's deputies from those counties searched large areas of the mountainous wilderness on foot and by helicopter. Door-to-door searches of local farmhouses were also carried out. Other search parties ran patrol boats along Lake Merwin and Yale Lake, the reservoir immediately to its east.[92] No trace of Cooper, nor any of the equipment presumed to have left the aircraft with him, was found.[92]

The FBI also coordinated an aerial search, using fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters from the Oregon Army National Guard, along the entire flight path (known as Victor 23 in U.S. aviation terminology[93] but "Vector 23" in most Cooper literature[94][77]) from Seattle to Reno. Although numerous broken treetops and several pieces of plastic and other objects resembling parachute canopies were sighted and investigated, nothing relevant to the hijacking was found.[95]

Shortly after the spring thaw in early 1972, teams of FBI agents aided by some 200 United States Army soldiers from Fort Lewis, along with United States Air Force personnel, National Guardsmen, and civilian volunteers, conducted another thorough ground search of Clark and Cowlitz counties for eighteen days in March, and then an additional eighteen days in April.[96] Electronic Explorations Company, a marine salvage firm, used a submarine to search the 200-foot (61 m) depths of Lake Merwin.[97] Two local women stumbled upon a skeleton in an abandoned structure in Clark County; it was later identified as the remains of Barbara Ann Derry, a teenaged girl who had been abducted and murdered several weeks before.[98][99] Ultimately, the extensive search and recovery operation uncovered no significant material evidence related to the hijacking.[100]

Search for ransom money[edit]

A month after the hijacking, the FBI distributed lists of the ransom serial numbers to financial institutions, casinos, racetracks, and other businesses that routinely conducted large cash transactions, and to law enforcement agencies around the world. Northwest Orient offered a reward of 15% of the recovered money, to a maximum of $25,000. In early 1972, U.S. Attorney General John N. Mitchell released the serial numbers to the general public.[101] Two men used counterfeit twenty-dollar bills printed with Cooper serial numbers to swindle $30,000 from a Newsweek reporter named Karl Fleming in exchange for an interview with a man they falsely claimed was the hijacker.[102][103]

In early 1973, with the ransom money still missing, The Oregon Journal republished the serial numbers and offered $1,000 to the first person to turn in a ransom bill to the newspaper or any FBI field office. In Seattle, the Post-Intelligencer made a similar offer with a $5,000 reward. The offers remained in effect until Thanksgiving 1974, and though there were several near-matches, no genuine bills were found.[104] In 1975, Northwest Orient's insurer, Global Indemnity Co., complied with an order from the Minnesota Supreme Court and paid the airline's $180,000 claim on the ransom money.[105]

Later developments[edit]

Subsequent analyses indicated that the original landing zone estimate was inaccurate: Captain Scott, who was flying the aircraft manually because of Cooper's speed and altitude demands, later determined that his flight path was farther east than initially assumed.[106] Additional data from a variety of sources—in particular Continental Airlines pilot Tom Bohan, who was flying four minutes behind Flight 305—indicated that the wind direction factored into drop zone calculations had been wrong, possibly by as much as 80 degrees.[107] This and other supplemental data suggested that the actual drop zone was south-southeast of the original estimate, in the drainage area of the Washougal River.[108]

FBI Agent Ralph Himmelsbach wrote, "I have to confess, if I [were] going to look for Cooper... I would head for the Washougal."[109] The Washougal Valley and its surroundings have been searched repeatedly by private individuals and groups in subsequent years; to date, no discoveries traceable to the hijacking have been reported.[106] Some investigators have speculated that the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens could have obliterated any remaining physical clues.[110]

Investigation suspended[edit]

On July 8, 2016, the FBI announced that it was suspending active investigation of the Cooper case, citing a need to focus its investigative resources and manpower on issues of higher and more urgent priority. Local field offices will continue to accept any legitimate physical evidence, related specifically to the parachutes or to the ransom money, that may emerge in the future. The 66-volume case file compiled over the 45-year course of the investigation will be preserved for historical purposes at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., and on the FBI website. All of the evidence is open to the public.[111][112] The crime remains the only unsolved case of air piracy in commercial aviation history.[113]

Physical evidence[edit]

Three major pieces of evidence were found on the plane: a black clip-on tie, a mother-of-pearl tie clip, and eight filter-tipped Raleigh cigarette butts. At some time after the hijacking, the cigarette butts were lost.[114]

In November 1978, a placard printed with instructions for lowering the aft stairs of a 727 was found by a deer hunter near a logging road about 13 miles (21 km) east of Castle Rock, Washington, well north of Lake Merwin, but within Flight 305's basic flight path.[115]

Recovered ransom money[edit]

Portion of Brian Ingram's 1980 discovery

On February 10, 1980, eight-year-old Brian Ingram was vacationing with his family on the Columbia River at a beachfront known as Tina (or Tena) Bar, about 9 miles (14 km) downstream from Vancouver, Washington, and 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Ariel. He uncovered three packets of the ransom cash totaling around $5,800 as he raked the sandy riverbank to build a campfire.[116] The bills had disintegrated from lengthy exposure to the elements, but were still bundled in rubber bands.[117] FBI technicians confirmed that the money was indeed a portion of the ransom: two packets of 100 twenty-dollar bills each, and a third packet of 90, all arranged in the same order as when given to Cooper.[118][119]

The discovery launched several new rounds of conjecture and ultimately raised more questions than it answered. Initial statements by investigators and scientific consultants were founded on the assumption that the bundled bills washed freely into the Columbia River from one of its many connecting tributaries. An Army Corps of Engineers hydrologist noted that the bills had disintegrated in a "rounded" fashion and were "matted together", indicating that they "had been deposited by river action", as opposed to having been deliberately buried.[120] That conclusion, if correct, supported the opinion that Cooper had not landed near Lake Merwin nor any tributary of the Lewis River, which feeds into the Columbia well downstream from Tina Bar. It also lent credence to supplemental speculation that placed the drop zone near the Washougal River, which merges with the Columbia upstream from the discovery site.[121]

The "free-floating" hypothesis presented difficulties; it did not explain the ten bills missing from one packet, nor was there a logical reason that the three packets would have remained together after separating from the rest of the money. Physical evidence was incompatible with geologic evidence: Himmelsbach wrote that free-floating bundles would have had to wash up on the bank "within a couple of years" of the hijacking; otherwise the rubber bands would have long since deteriorated.[122] Geological evidence suggested, however, that the bills arrived at Tina Bar well after 1974, the year of a Corps of Engineers dredging operation on that stretch of the river. Geologist Leonard Palmer of Portland State University found two distinct layers of sand and sediment between the clay deposited on the riverbank by the dredge and the sand layer in which the bills were buried, indicating that the bills arrived long after dredging had been completed.[120][123]

In late 2020, analysis of diatoms found on the bills suggests that the bundles found at Tina Bar were not submerged in the river or buried dry at the time of the hijacking in November 1971. Only diatoms that bloom during springtime were found, placing the date range that the money entered the water at least several months after the hijacking.[124][125]

In 1986, after protracted negotiations, the recovered bills were divided equally between Ingram and Northwest Orient's insurer; the FBI retained fourteen examples as evidence.[101][126] Ingram sold fifteen of his bills at auction in 2008 for about $37,000.[127] The Columbia River ransom money remains the only confirmed physical evidence from the hijacking ever found outside the aircraft.[128]

Subsequent FBI disclosures[edit]

In late 2007, the FBI announced that a partial DNA profile had been obtained from samples found on Cooper's tie in 2001,[129] though they later acknowledged that there is no evidence that the hijacker was the source of the sample material. "The tie had two small DNA samples, and one large sample," said Special Agent Fred Gutt. "It's difficult to draw firm conclusions from these samples."[130] The Bureau also made public a file of previously unreleased evidence, including Cooper's 1971 plane ticket,[131] and posted previously unreleased composite sketches and fact sheets, along with a request to the general public for information which might lead to Cooper's positive identification.[79][129][132]

The FBI also disclosed that Cooper had chosen the older of the two primary parachutes supplied to him, rather than the technically superior professional sport parachute, and that from the two reserve parachutes, he selected a "dummy", an unusable unit with a sewn-shut chute intended for classroom demonstrations, although an experienced skydiver would have realized this was non-functional.[131][129] The older of the two primary chutes was an NB-8, a military parachute, giving credibility to speculation that Cooper was a military parachutist and not a civilian skydiver.[133] Despite attempts to label Cooper as inexperienced for jumping with an unusable "dummy" reserve chute, Cooper could not have jumped with this "dummy" chute because neither of the main harnesses had the proper D-rings required to attach reserve chutes.[134] Therefore, both of the reserve chutes given to Cooper were technically non-functional as reserves since he lacked the proper equipment to use them. Although Cooper lacked the ability to attach this "dummy" chute to his main harness as a reserve parachute, it was not found in the plane, so what he did with it is unknown.[135]

In March 2009, the FBI disclosed that Tom Kaye, a paleontologist from the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle, had assembled a team of "citizen sleuths", including scientific illustrator Carol Abraczinskas and metallurgist Alan Stone. The group, eventually known as the Cooper Research Team,[136] reinvestigated important components of the case using GPS, satellite imagery, and other technologies unavailable in 1971.[128] Although they gained little new information about the buried ransom money or Cooper's landing zone, they were able to find and analyze hundreds of minute particles on Cooper's tie using electron microscopy. Lycopodium spores (likely from a pharmaceutical product) were identified, as well as fragments of bismuth and aluminum.[136]

In November 2011, Kaye announced that particles of pure (unalloyed) titanium had also been found on the tie. He explained that titanium, which was much rarer in the 1970s than in the 2010s, was at that time found only in metal fabrication or production facilities, or at chemical companies using it (combined with aluminum) to store extremely corrosive substances.[137] The findings weakly suggested that Cooper might have worked in a metal or chemical manufacturing plant.[138]

In January 2017, Kaye reported that rare earth minerals such as cerium and strontium sulfide had also been identified among particles from the tie. One of the rare applications for such elements in the 1970s was Boeing's supersonic transport development project, suggesting the possibility that Cooper was a Boeing employee.[139][140] Other possible sources of the material included factories that manufactured cathode ray tubes, such as the Portland firms Teledyne and Tektronix.[141]

Theories, hypotheses and conjecture[edit]

Over the 45-year span of its active investigation, the FBI periodically made public some of its working hypotheses and tentative conclusions, drawn from witness testimony and the scarce physical evidence.[142]

Sketches[edit]

During the first year of the investigation the FBI developed multiple composite sketches of Cooper based upon eyewitness testimony from passengers and flight crew. Composite A, which became jokingly known as the "Bing Crosby Sketch"[143], was completed less than a week after the hijacking and was first released on November 28th, 1971.[144] Composite A was not well received by eyewitnesses with the general consensus being that it showed a man who was much too young to be Cooper and that his face was more narrow than Cooper's.[145] One eyewitness complained to the FBI that Composite A lacked Cooper's disinterested "let's get it over with look."[146] Composite A received a particularly negative review from flight attendant Florence Schaffner who repeatedly insisted to the FBI that the sketch was a very poor likeness of Cooper.[147]

Upon receiving so many complaints from eyewitnesses that Composite A was a poor likeness for Cooper, the FBI began working on a second composite sketch, which they would label Composite B. One of the main goals stated internally within the FBI for revising Composite A was to more accurately show Cooper's age as well as his swarthy complexion.[148] Composite B was completed and displayed to eyewitnesses in the fall of 1972. Although it was considered to be an improvement upon Composite A by making Cooper appear older, it was criticized by the eyewitnesses for making Cooper appear too angry or nasty, with one flight attendant advising that the sketch made Cooper looked like a "hoodlum" wherein reality he was more refined in appearance.[149] Multiple witnesses also complained that Composite B showed a man who was a bit older than Cooper and also that his complexion was still too light.[150] Taking these suggestions under advisement, a Revised Composite B was finalized on January 2nd, 1973. When shown Revised Composite B, one flight attendant stated that it was an excellent likeness and that "the hijacker would be easily recognized from this sketch."[151] The FBI finally concluded in April 1973 that Revised Composite B was going to be the best likeness of Cooper that they were going to be able to develop from eyewitness accounts and therefore that Composite B should be considered the definitive sketch of D.B. Cooper.[152]

Suspect profiling[edit]

Flight attendants Schaffner and Mucklow, who spent the most time interacting with Cooper, were interviewed on the same night in separate cities, and gave nearly identical descriptions: around 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) tall, mid-40s, short black hair combed back, 170-180lbs, swarthy or olive skin tone, and with no discernable accent. The only person to recall his eye color was Schaffner who later described them as being brown.[153] The FBI relied heavily on the testimony of University of Oregon student Bill Mitchell, who sat across from Cooper during the three hours between take off in Portland and landing in Seattle, repeatedly interviewing him for what would become known as Composite Sketch B.[154] His descriptions of Cooper were mostly the same as those of the flight attendants, except that he described Cooper as being somewhat smaller, stating that he thought Cooper was 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) to 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) and that at 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) he was "way bigger" than Cooper and even referring to him as "slight".[155][156] Similar to the flight attendants, Mitchell made special note of Cooper's skin tone, advising the FBI sketch artist that Cooper's features should reflect "a Mexican or Indian ancestry."[157] Robert Gregory, one of the only other passengers besides Mitchell who provided the FBI with a full description of Cooper, also provided a shorter impression of Cooper, describing him as 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m). Like Mitchell, Gregory also stated that he believed Cooper to be of Mexican-American or American Indian descent.[158]

Cooper appeared to be familiar with the Seattle area and may have been an Air Force veteran, based on testimony that he recognized the city of Tacoma from the air as the jet circled Puget Sound, and his accurate comment to Mucklow that McChord Air Force Base was approximately twenty minutes' driving time from Seattle-Tacoma Airport—a detail most civilians would not know or comment upon.[159] His financial situation was very likely desperate. According to the FBI's retired chief investigator, Ralph Himmelsbach, extortionists and other criminals who steal large amounts of money nearly always do so because they need it urgently; otherwise, the crime is not worth the considerable risk.[160] Alternatively, Cooper may have been "a thrill seeker" who made the jump "just to prove it could be done".[109]

Agents theorized that Cooper took his alias from a popular French-language Belgian comics series featuring the fictional hero Dan Cooper, a Royal Canadian Air Force test pilot who took part in numerous heroic adventures, including parachuting. (One cover from the series, reproduced on the FBI website, depicts test pilot Cooper skydiving.)[128] Because the Dan Cooper comics were never translated into English, nor imported to the U.S., they speculated that he had encountered them during a tour of duty in Europe.[128]

Knowledge and planning[edit]

Evidence suggested that Cooper was knowledgeable about flying technique, aircraft, and the local terrain. He demanded four parachutes to force the assumption that he might compel one or more hostages to jump with him, thus ensuring he would not be deliberately supplied with sabotaged equipment.[161] Cooper's choice of seat in Row 18, the final row of the rear cabin, also showed forethought because it kept all of the action in front of him and allowed him to be less conspicuous to the rest of the passengers.[162] Cooper also appeared methodical in his attempts to leave no evidence behind. Shortly before he jumped, he requested that all notes written by him or on his behalf be gathered by Mucklow and returned to him. Mucklow recalled that she lit a cigarette for Cooper with the last match in his paper matchbook and when she attempted to throw away the empty matchbook he requested she return it to him.[163] However, Cooper's deliberate efforts at taking evidence with him were only partly successful since he negligently left his clip-on tie in his seat.[164]

Cooper chose a 727-100 aircraft because it was ideal for a bail-out escape, owing not only to its aft airstair but also to the high, aftward placement of all three engines, which allowed a reasonably safe jump despite the proximity of the engine exhaust. The 727 had "single-point fueling" capability, a then-recent innovation that allowed all tanks to be refueled rapidly through a single fuel port. It also had the ability (unusual for a commercial jet airliner) to remain in slow, low-altitude flight without stalling; Cooper knew how to control its airspeed and altitude without entering the cockpit, where he could have been overpowered by the three pilots.[165] In addition, Cooper was familiar with important details, such as the appropriate flap setting of fifteen degrees (which was unique to that aircraft), and the typical refueling time.[166] He knew that the airstair could be lowered during flight—a fact never disclosed to civilian flight crews, since there was no situation on a passenger flight that would make it necessary—and that its operation, by a single switch in the rear of the cabin, could not be overridden from the cockpit.[167] He also may have known that the Central Intelligence Agency was, at the time, using 727s to drop agents and supplies behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War.[168]

Assuming that Cooper was not a paratrooper but was an Air Force veteran, Special Agent Larry Carr, who led the Cooper investigative team from 2006 until its dissolution in 2016, suggested the possibility that he was an aircraft cargo loader. Such an assignment would have given him knowledge and experience in the aviation field; and loaders—because they throw cargo out of flying aircraft—wear emergency parachutes and receive rudimentary jump training. Such training would have given Cooper a working knowledge of parachutes—but "not necessarily sufficient knowledge to survive the jump he made."[169]

Fate[edit]

The FBI was skeptical of Cooper's odds of survival, concluding that he lacked crucial skydiving skills and experience. "We originally thought Cooper was an experienced jumper, perhaps even a paratrooper," said Carr. "We concluded after a few years this was simply not true. No experienced parachutist would have jumped in the pitch-black night, in the rain, with a 172 mph [77 m/s] wind in his face wearing loafers and a trench coat. It was simply too risky. He also missed that his reserve parachute was only for training and had been sewn shut, something a skilled skydiver would have checked."[128] Cooper also failed to bring or request a helmet,[170][171] chose to jump with the older and technically inferior of the two primary parachutes supplied to him, and jumped into a probable 15 °F (−9 °C) wind at 10,000 feet (3,000 m) in November over Washington state without proper protection against the extreme wind chill.[172][169] These claims about Cooper's lack of skydiving skills are seemingly refuted by the testimony of Mucklow who was impressed by Cooper's skill with a parachute, stating that he "appeared to be completely familiar with the parachutes which had been furnished to him."[173] It is also not known what items were inside Cooper's paper bag he brought onto the plane, but the FBI reported the size of the bag to be 4"x12"x14".[174] The contents were not items that were used to assist Cooper during any part of the actual hijacking, so it was speculated within the FBI that this bag may have contained items that would have been helpful to Cooper's jump such as boots, etc.[175]

The FBI speculated from the beginning that Cooper probably did not survive his jump, for several reasons: the rainy and dangerous conditions for skydiving on the night of the hijacking; Cooper's lack of proper equipment; the landing area being a wilderness; the apparent lack of detailed knowledge Cooper had of his landing area; the small portion of money found at the Columbia lent credence to this belief as well the rest of the ransom money never turning up even after decades, indicating it was never spent.[128] "Diving into the wilderness without a plan, without the right equipment, in such terrible conditions, he probably never even got his chute open," said Carr.[129] Even if he did land safely, agents contended that survival in the mountainous terrain at the onset of winter would have been all but impossible without an accomplice at a predetermined landing point. This would have required a precisely timed jump—necessitating, in turn, cooperation from the flight crew. There is no evidence that Cooper requested or received any such help from the crew, nor that he had any clear idea where he was when he jumped into the stormy, overcast darkness.[129] Some, including FBI agent Richard Tosaw, theorise Cooper landed in the Columbia where he could have possibly succumbed to drowning or hypothermia.[176][177][178]

The weather conditions on the night of the hijacking have been frequently cited in public statements and media appearances by FBI agents as one of the reasons they conclude Cooper did not survive either the jump or his escape from the area.[179] FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach, a notable face of the Cooper investigation due to his appearances on TV programs like In Search of... and Unsolved Mysteries, would often state that Cooper jumped into a freezing storm and therefore that Cooper may have frozen to death.[180][181] Perhaps influenced by FBI statements such as these, the weather conditions that night have been described over the years by various media as a "raging thunderstorm"[182], a "winter storm"[183], or a "violent thunderstorm"[184] These statements stand in contrast to actual weather readings taken that night at the Portland Airport, which indicate that at 8:00 p.m. the weather conditions were recorded as being 42°F, with light rain showers, seven miles of visibility, and a westerly wind of 10 knots (roughly 12 mph).[185]

Despite the dire assessment regarding Cooper's fate given by the FBI, it should be pointed out that all of the "Cooper Copycats" survived their jumps, some in worse weather conditions and some with no skydiving experience at all. One such Cooper copycat, Martin McNally, had to be shown how to put on his parachute and jumped from his 727 while it was traveling 320 miles per hour compared to Cooper's jump that was made at the relatively safer speed of 190 miles per hour.[186][187] Richard LaPoint, who hijacked an airliner out of Las Vegas less than two months after the Cooper hijacking, made his jump over northern Colorado in January wearing nothing but slacks, a shirt, and cowboy boots, ultimately landing in the snow.[188] Martin Andrade Jr, the author of an analysis of World War II aircrew bailouts concluded that the probability of Cooper's survival may have been higher than suggested by popular opinion. Cooper, he claimed, jumped in conditions that thousands of RAF crewmen survived during WWII. Some, including Andrade and, initially Tosaw, suggest the possibility Cooper survived but lost the ransom in the process.[189][190]

In 2019, the FBI released a document that may provide evidence that Cooper survived. The document revealed that approximately three hours after Cooper jumped, a burglary occurred at a small grocery store near Heisson, Washington, an unincorporated community located within the calculated drop zone that Northwest Airlines presented to the FBI.[191] The burglar was noted by the FBI to have taken only survival items such as beef jerky and gloves.[192]

Statute of limitations[edit]

In 1976, discussion arose over impending expiration of the statute of limitations on the hijacking. Most published legal analyses agreed that it would make little difference,[193] as interpretation of the statute varies considerably from case to case and court to court, and a prosecutor could argue that Cooper had forfeited legal immunity on any of several valid technical grounds.[194] The question was rendered moot in November when a Portland grand jury returned an indictment in absentia against "John Doe, aka Dan Cooper" for air piracy and violation of the Hobbs Act.[195] The indictment formally initiated prosecution that can be continued, should the hijacker be apprehended at any time in the future.[195]

Suspects[edit]

Between 1971 and 2016, the FBI processed more than a thousand "serious suspects", including assorted publicity seekers and deathbed confessors.[77][196][197]

Ted Braden[edit]

Ted Braden in 1970

Theodore Burdette Braden, Jr. (1928–2007) was a Special Forces commando during the Vietnam War, a master skydiver, and a convicted felon. He was believed by many within the Special Forces community, both at the time of the hijacking and in subsequent years, to have been Cooper.[198][199] Born in Ohio, Braden first joined the military at the age of 16 in 1944, serving with the 101st Airborne during World War II. He eventually became one of the military's leading parachutists, often representing the Army in international skydiving tournaments,[200] and his military records list him as having made 911 jumps.[201] During the 1960s, Braden was a team leader within the MACVSOG, a classified commando unit of Green Berets which conducted unconventional warfare operations during the Vietnam War.[202] He also served as a military skydiving instructor, teaching HALO jumping techniques to members of Project Delta.[203] Braden spent 23 months in Vietnam, conducting classified operations within both North and South Vietnam, as well as Laos and Cambodia.[204] In December 1966, Braden deserted his unit in Vietnam and made his way to the Congo to serve as a mercenary,[205] but would only serve there a short time before being arrested by CIA agents and taken back to the States for a courts-martial. Despite having committed a capital offense by deserting in wartime, Braden was given an honorable discharge and barred from re-enlisting in the military in exchange for his continued secrecy about the MACVSOG program.[206]

Braden was profiled in the October 1967 issue of Ramparts Magazine, wherein he was described by fellow Special Forces veteran and journalist Don Duncan as being someone with a "secret death wish" who "continually places himself in unnecessary danger but always seems to get away with it", specifically referring to Braden's disregard for military skydiving safety regulations.[207] Duncan also claimed that during Braden's time in Vietnam, he was "continuously involved in shady deals to make money."[208] Following his military discharge in 1967, the details of Braden's life are largely unknown, but at the time of the hijacking he was a truck driver for Consolidated Freightways, which was headquartered in Vancouver, Washington, just across the Columbia River from Portland and not far from the suspected dropzone of Ariel, Washington.[209] It is also known that at some point in the early 1970s he was investigated by the FBI for stealing $250,000 during a trucking scam he had allegedly devised, but he would never be formally charged for this supposed crime.[210] In 1980, Braden was indicted by a Federal grand jury for driving an 18-wheeler full of stolen goods from Arizona to Massachusetts, but it is unknown whether there was a conviction in that case.[211] Two years later Braden would be arrested in Pennsylvania for driving a stolen vehicle with fictitious plates and for having no drivers license.[212] Braden eventually ended up being sent to Federal prison at some point during the late 1980s, serving time in Pennsylvania, but the precise crime is unknown.[213]

Despite his ability as a soldier, he was not well liked personally and was described by a family member as "the perfect combination of high intelligence and criminality".[214] From his time working covert operations in Vietnam, he likely would have possessed the then-classified knowledge about the ability and proper specifications for jumping from a 727, perhaps having done it himself on MACVSOG missions. Physically, Braden's military records list him at 5 ft 8 in (173 cm), which is shorter than the height description of at least 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) given by the two flight attendants, but this military measurement would have been taken in his stocking feet and he may have appeared somewhat taller in shoes. However, he possessed a dark complexion from years of outdoor military service, had short dark hair, a medium athletic build, and was 43 years of age at the time of the hijacking, which are features all in line with the descriptions of Cooper.[215]

Kenneth Peter Christiansen[edit]

In 2003, Minnesota resident Lyle Christiansen watched a television documentary about the Cooper hijacking and became convinced that his late brother Kenneth (1926–1994) was Cooper.[94] After repeated futile attempts to convince first the FBI and then the author and film director Nora Ephron (who he hoped would make a movie about the case), he contacted a private investigator in New York City. In 2010, the detective, Skipp Porteous, published a book postulating that Christiansen was the hijacker.[216] The following year, an episode of the History series Brad Meltzer's Decoded also summarized the circumstantial evidence linking Christiansen to the Cooper case.[217]

Christiansen enlisted in the Army in 1944 and was trained as a paratrooper. World War II had ended by the time he was deployed in 1945, but he made occasional training jumps while stationed in Japan with occupation forces in the late 1940s. After leaving the Army, he joined Northwest Orient in 1954 as a mechanic in the South Pacific and subsequently became a flight attendant, and then a purser, based in Seattle.[94] Christiansen was 45 years old at the time of the hijacking, but he was shorter (5 ft 8 in or 173 cm), thinner (150 pounds or 68 kg), and lighter in complexion than eyewitness descriptions of Cooper.[94] Christiansen smoked (as did the hijacker) and displayed a fondness for bourbon (the drink Cooper had requested).[218] Schaffner told a reporter that photos of Christiansen fit her memory of the hijacker's appearance more closely than those of other suspects she had been shown, but could not conclusively identify him.[94][219]

Despite the publicity generated by Porteous's book and the 2011 television documentary, the FBI stands by its position that Christiansen cannot be considered a prime suspect.[129][220] It cites the poor match to eyewitness physical descriptions, a level of skydiving expertise above that predicted by their suspect profile, and a complete absence of direct incriminating evidence.[221]

Jack Coffelt[edit]

Bryant "Jack" Coffelt (1917–1975) was a con man, ex-convict, and purported government informant who claimed to have been the chauffeur and confidant of Abraham Lincoln's last undisputed descendant, great-grandson Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith. In 1972, he began claiming he was Cooper and attempted through an intermediary, a former cellmate named James Brown, to sell his story to a Hollywood production company. He said he landed near Mount Hood, about 50 miles (80 km) southeast of Ariel, injuring himself and losing the ransom money in the process. Photos of Coffelt bear a resemblance to the composite drawings, although he was in his mid-fifties in 1971. He was reportedly in Portland on the day of the hijacking and sustained leg injuries around that time which were consistent with a skydiving mishap.[222]

Coffelt's account was reviewed by the FBI, which concluded that it differed in several details from information that had not been made public and was therefore a fabrication.[223] Brown, undeterred, continued peddling the story long after Coffelt died in 1975. Multiple media venues, including the CBS news program 60 Minutes, considered and rejected it.[224]

Lynn Doyle Cooper[edit]

Lynn Doyle "L.D." Cooper (1931–1999), a leather worker and Korean War veteran, was proposed as a suspect in July 2011 by his niece, Marla Cooper.[225][226] As an eight-year-old, she recalled Cooper and another uncle planning something "very mischievous", involving the use of "expensive walkie-talkies", at her grandmother's house in Sisters, Oregon, 150 miles (240 km) southeast of Portland.[227] The next day Flight 305 was hijacked; and though the uncles ostensibly were turkey hunting, L.D. Cooper came home wearing a bloody shirt—the result, he said, of an auto accident.[220] Later, Marla claimed, her parents came to believe that L.D. was the hijacker. She also recalled that her uncle, who died in 1999, was obsessed with the Canadian comic book hero Dan Cooper and "had one of his comic books thumbtacked to his wall"—although he was not a skydiver or paratrooper.[228]

In August 2011, New York magazine published an alternative witness sketch, reportedly based on a description by Flight 305 eyewitness Robert Gregory, depicting horn-rimmed sunglasses, a "russet"-colored suit jacket with wide lapels, and marcelled hair. The article observed that L.D. Cooper had wavy hair that looked marcelled (as did Duane Weber).[229] The FBI announced that no fingerprints had been found on a guitar strap made by L.D. Cooper.[230] One week later, they added that his DNA did not match the partial DNA profile obtained from the hijacker's tie, but acknowledged that there is no certainty that the hijacker was the source of the organic material obtained from the tie.[130]

Barbara Dayton[edit]

Barbara Dayton (1926–2002), a recreational pilot and University of Washington librarian who was born Robert Dayton, served in the U.S. Merchant Marine and then the Army during World War II.[231] After discharge, Dayton worked with explosives in the construction field and aspired to a professional airline career, but could not obtain a commercial pilot's license.[232]

Dayton underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1969, changed her name to Barbara, and is believed to be the first person to undergo this surgery in Washington state.[233] She claimed to have staged the Cooper hijacking two years later, presenting as a man, in order to "get back" at the airline industry and the FAA, whose insurmountable rules and conditions had prevented her from becoming an airline pilot.[234] Dayton said that the ransom money was hidden in a cistern near Woodburn, Oregon, a suburban area south of Portland, but eventually recanted the entire story, ostensibly after learning that hijacking charges could still be brought. She also did not match the physical description particularly closely.[235] The FBI has never commented publicly on Dayton, who died in 2002.[231][236]

William Gossett[edit]

William Pratt Gossett (1930–2003) was a Marine Corps, Army, and Army Air Forces veteran who had military service in Korea and Vietnam. His military experience included jump training and wilderness survival. Gossett was known to be obsessed with the Cooper hijacking. According to Galen Cook, a lawyer who has collected information related to Gossett for years, he once showed his sons a key to a Vancouver, British Columbia, safe deposit box which, he claimed, contained the long-missing ransom money.[237]

The FBI has no direct evidence implicating Gossett and cannot even reliably place him in the Pacific Northwest at the time of the hijacking.[238] "There is not one link to the D.B. Cooper case," said Special Agent Carr, "other than the statements [Gossett] made to someone."[239]

Joe Lakich[edit]

Joe Lakich (1921-2017) was a retired U.S. Army Major and Korean War veteran whose daughter was killed less than two months before the hijacking during a failed FBI hostage negotiation.[240] The events culminating in the death of Lakich's daughter, Susan Giffe, would be studied by hostage negotiators for decades as an example of what not to do during a hostage situation.[241] Lakich and his wife would later sue the FBI and an Appeals Court would ultimately rule in their favor, holding that the FBI acted negligently during the hostage negotation.[242]

Lakich would become a Cooper suspect in large part due to the revelation that Cooper's tie contained rare microscopic metallic particles such as pure titanium.[243] It is speculated that few people during that era would have been exposed to these metals and that Cooper may have worked in a manufacturing environment working on electronics as engineer or manager. When the hijacking occurred, Lakich was working in Nashville as a production supervisor at an electronics capacitor factory and would have likely been exposed to the materials found on the tie.[244] When Cooper was asked by Tina Mucklow why he was committing the hijacking, he replied: "It's not because I have a grudge against your airlines, it's just because I have a grudge."[245] It is believed by some that this "grudge" was Lakich's anger toward the FBI for their failed efforts at rescuing his daughter less than two months earlier.[246]

John List[edit]

John Emil List (1925–2008) was an accountant and war veteran who murdered his wife, three teenage children, and 85-year-old mother in Westfield, New Jersey, fifteen days before the Cooper hijacking, withdrew $200,000 from his mother's bank account, and disappeared.[247] He came to the attention of the Cooper task force due to the timing of his disappearance, multiple matches to the hijacker's description, and the reasoning that "a fugitive accused of mass murder has nothing to lose".[248] After his capture in 1989, List denied any involvement in the Cooper hijacking: no substantial evidence implicates him, and the FBI no longer considers him a suspect.[249] List died in prison in 2008.[250]

Ted Mayfield[edit]

Theodore Ernest Mayfield (1935–2015) was a Special Forces veteran, pilot, competitive skydiver, and skydiving instructor. He served time in 1994 for negligent homicide after two of his students died when their parachutes failed to open[251] and was later found indirectly responsible for thirteen additional skydiving deaths due to faulty equipment and training. In 2010, he was sentenced to three years' probation for piloting a plane 26 years after losing his pilot's license and rigging certificates.[252] He was suggested repeatedly as a suspect early in the investigation, according to FBI Agent Ralph Himmelsbach, who knew Mayfield from a prior dispute at a local airport. He was ruled out, based partly on the fact that he called Himmelsbach less than two hours after Flight 305 landed in Reno to volunteer advice on standard skydiving practices and possible landing zones, as well as information on local skydivers.[253]

Richard McCoy Jr.[edit]

Richard McCoy Jr.

Richard McCoy (1942–1974) was an Army veteran who served two tours of duty in Vietnam, first as a demolition expert and later with the Green Berets as a helicopter pilot.[254] After his military service, he became a warrant officer in the Utah National Guard and an avid recreational skydiver, with aspirations of becoming a Utah State Trooper.[255][256]

On April 7, 1972, McCoy staged the best-known of the so-called "copycat" hijackings (see below).[257] He boarded United Airlines' Flight 855 (a Boeing 727 with aft stairs) in Denver, Colorado, and, brandishing what later proved to be a paperweight resembling a hand grenade and an unloaded handgun, he demanded four parachutes and $500,000.[248] After delivery of the money and parachutes at San Francisco International Airport, McCoy ordered the aircraft back into the sky and bailed out over Provo, Utah, leaving behind his handwritten hijacking instructions and his fingerprints on a magazine he had been reading.[258]

He was arrested on April 9 with the ransom cash in his possession and, after trial and conviction, received a 45-year sentence.[255][259] Two years later, he escaped from Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary with several accomplices by crashing a garbage truck through the main gate.[260] Tracked down three months later in Virginia Beach, McCoy was killed in a shootout with FBI agents.[257][261]

Following McCoy's arrest, FBI agents were struck by the many similarities between the two hijackings and suspected that the differences between the two was evidence of Cooper learning from his mistakes and refining his method.[262] An improvement upon Cooper's hijacking was that McCoy was known to have jumped with his own parachute, jumpsuit, and helmet, which he had packed in his onboard luggage.[263] McCoy was also discovered to have been wearing dark makeup to change his complexion and was also wearing a fake mustache.[264] Additionally, the FBI found that McCoy had made test runs on the very same flights a week earlier. [265]

However, just two days after McCoy's arrest, critical eyewitness testimony would dampen the FBI's belief that they had found Cooper when flight attendants Tina Mucklow, Florence Schaffner, and Alice Hancock all told agents that McCoy was not Cooper.[266] Additionally, six more eyewitnesses to Cooper would be shown photographs of McCoy within three days of his arrest and all stated that he was not Cooper, with one eyewitness adding that McCoy would need a darker complexion to look more like Cooper.[267][268]

In their 1991 book, D.B. Cooper: The Real McCoy, parole officer Bernie Rhodes and former FBI agent Russell Calame asserted that they had identified McCoy as Cooper.[269] They cited obvious similarities in the two hijackings, claims by McCoy's family that the tie and mother-of-pearl tie clip left on the plane belonged to McCoy, and McCoy's own refusal to admit or deny that he was Cooper.[257][270] A proponent of their claim was the FBI agent who killed McCoy. "When I shot Richard McCoy," he said, "I shot D. B. Cooper at the same time."[257]

Although there is no reasonable doubt that McCoy committed the Denver hijacking, the FBI believes that the weight of the evidence does not indicate that McCoy and Cooper were one and the same because of mismatches in age and description,[271][272] a level of skydiving skill well above that thought to be possessed by the hijacker,[129] and credible evidence that McCoy was in Las Vegas on the day of the Portland hijacking,[101] and at home in Utah the day after, having Thanksgiving dinner with his family.[220][273] However, documents released in 2020 revealed that as late as 2004 the FBI had still not completely cleared McCoy as a Cooper suspect and were attempting to discreetly obtain a DNA sample from McCoy's family.[274]

Sheridan Peterson[edit]

The 1971 sketch of Cooper's description, and photo of Peterson from around the same time.

Sheridan Peterson (1926–2021) served in the Marine Corps during World War II and was later employed as a technical editor at Boeing, based in Seattle. Investigators took an interest in Peterson as a suspect soon after the skyjacking because of his experience as a smokejumper and love of taking physical risks, as well as his similar appearance and age (44) to the Cooper description.

Peterson often teased the media about whether he was really Cooper. Entrepreneur Eric Ulis, who spent years investigating the crime, said he was "98% convinced" that Peterson was Cooper; but when pressed by FBI agents, Peterson insisted he was in Nepal at the time of the hijacking. He died in 2021.[275]

Robert Rackstraw[edit]

FBI sketch of D.B. Cooper from 1971 compared to 1970 Army ID picture of Robert Rackstraw.

Robert Wesley Rackstraw (1943–2019) was a retired pilot and ex-convict who served on an Army helicopter crew and other units during the Vietnam War. He came to the attention of the Cooper task force in February, 1978, after he was arrested in Iran and deported to the U.S. to face explosives possession and check kiting charges. Several months later, while released on bail, Rackstraw attempted to fake his own death by radioing a false mayday call and telling controllers that he was bailing out of a rented plane over Monterey Bay.[276] Police later arrested him in Fullerton, California, on an additional charge of forging federal pilot certificates; the plane he claimed to have ditched was found, repainted, in a nearby hangar.[277][278] Cooper investigators noted his physical resemblance to Cooper composite sketches (although he was only 28 in 1971),[279] military parachute training, and criminal record, but eliminated him as a suspect in 1979 after no direct evidence of his involvement could be found.[280][281]

In 2016, Rackstraw re-emerged as a suspect in a History program[282] and a book.[283] On September 8, 2016, Thomas J. Colbert, the author of the book, and attorney Mark Zaid filed a lawsuit to compel the FBI to release its Cooper case file under the Freedom of Information Act.[284]

In 2017, Colbert and a group of volunteer investigators uncovered what they believed to be "a decades-old parachute strap" at an undisclosed location in the Pacific Northwest.[285] This was followed later in 2017 with a piece of foam, which they suspected of being part of Cooper's parachute backpack.[286] In January 2018, Tom and Dawna Colbert reported that they had obtained a "confession" letter originally written in December 1971 containing "codes" that matched three units Rackstraw was a part of while in the Army.[287][288]

One of the Flight 305 flight attendants reportedly "did not find any similarities" between photos of Rackstraw from the 1970s and her recollection of Cooper's appearance.[279] Rackstraw's attorney called the renewed allegations "the stupidest thing I've ever heard,"[289] and Rackstraw himself told People magazine, "It's a lot of [expletive], and they know it is."[279] The FBI declined further comment.[284] Rackstraw stated in a 2017 phone interview that he lost his job over the 2016 investigations.[290] "I told everybody I was [the hijacker]," Rackstraw told Colbert, before explaining the admission was a stunt. He died in 2019.[291]

Walter R. Reca[edit]

Walter R. Reca (1933–2014) was a former military paratrooper and intelligence operative.[292] He was proposed as a suspect by his friend Carl Laurin in 2018.[293] In 2008, Reca told Laurin via a recorded phone call that he was the hijacker.[294]

Reca gave Laurin permission in a notarized letter to share his story after his death. He also allowed Laurin to tape their phone conversations about the crime over a six-week period in late 2008. In over three hours of recordings, Reca shared details about his version of the hijacking. He also confessed to his niece, Lisa Story.[295]

From Reca's description of the terrain on his way to the drop zone, Laurin concluded that he landed near Cle Elum, Washington. After Reca described an encounter with a dump truck driver at a roadside cafe after he landed, Laurin located Jeff Osiadacz, who was driving his dump truck near Cle Elum the night of the hijacking and met a stranger at the Teanaway Junction Café just outside of town. The man asked Osiadacz to give his friend directions to the café over the phone, presumably to be picked up, and he complied.[296] Laurin convinced Joe Koenig, a former member of the Michigan State Police, of Reca's guilt.[297] Koenig later published a book on Cooper, titled Getting the Truth: I Am D.B. Cooper.[298]

These claims have aroused skepticism. Cle Elum is well north and east of Flight 305's known flight path, more than 150 miles (240 km) north of the drop zone assumed by most analysts, and even further from Tina Bar, where a portion of the ransom money was found. Reca was a military paratrooper and private skydiver with hundreds of jumps to his credit, in contradiction to the FBI's publicized profile of an amateur skydiver at best. Reca also did not resemble the composite portrait the FBI assembled, which Laurin and Osiadacz used to explain why Osiadacz's suspicions were not aroused at the time.[296] In response to the allegations against Reca, the FBI said that it would be inappropriate to comment on specific tips provided to them, and that no evidence to date had proved the culpability of any suspect beyond a reasonable doubt.[299]

William J. Smith[edit]

William J. Smith in 1985

In November 2018, The Oregonian published an article proposing William J. Smith (1928–2018), of Bloomfield, New Jersey,[300] as a suspect. The article was based on research conducted by an Army data analyst who sent his findings to the FBI in mid-2018.[301] Smith, a New Jersey native, was a World War II veteran. After high school, he enlisted in the United States Navy and volunteered for combat air crew training. After his discharge, he worked for the Lehigh Valley Railroad and was affected by the Penn Central Transportation Company's bankruptcy in 1970, the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history at that time. The article proposed that the loss of his pension created a grudge against the corporate establishment and transportation field, as well as a sudden need for money. Smith was 43 at the time of the hijacking. In his high school yearbook, a list of alumni killed in World War II lists an Ira Daniel Cooper, possibly the source for the hijacker's pseudonym.[301] The analyst claimed that Smith's naval aviation experience would have given him knowledge of planes and parachutes, and his railroad experience would have helped him find railroad tracks and hop on a train to escape the area after landing.[302]

According to the analyst, aluminum spiral chips found on the clip-on tie could have come from a locomotive maintenance facility. Smith's information about the Seattle area may have come from his close friend Dan Clair, who was stationed at Fort Lewis during the war. (The analyst noted that the man who claimed to be Cooper in Max Gunther's 1985 book identified himself as "Dan LeClair".[301]) Smith and Clair worked together for Conrail at Newark's Oak Island Yard. Smith retired from that facility as a yardmaster. The article noted that a picture of Smith on the Lehigh Valley Railroad website showed a "remarkable resemblance" to Cooper FBI sketches.[303] The FBI said that it would be inappropriate to comment on tips related to Smith.[301]

Duane L. Weber[edit]

Duane L. Weber (1924–1995) was a World War II Army veteran who served time in at least six prisons from 1945 to 1968 for burglary and forgery. He was proposed as a suspect by his widow, Jo, based primarily on a deathbed confession: three days before he died in 1995, Weber told his wife, "I am Dan Cooper." The name meant nothing to her, she said; but months later, a friend told her of its significance in the hijacking. She went to her local library to research Cooper, found Max Gunther's book, and discovered notations in the margins in her husband's handwriting.[77] Like the hijacker, Weber drank bourbon and chain-smoked. Other circumstantial evidence included a 1979 trip to Seattle and the Columbia River.[77]

Himmelsbach said, "[Weber] does fit the physical description (and) does have the criminal background that I have always felt was associated with the case,", but did not believe Weber was Cooper.[304] The FBI eliminated Weber as an active suspect in July 1998 when his fingerprints did not match any of those processed in the hijacked plane,[305] and no other direct evidence could be found to implicate him.[77] Later, his DNA also failed to match the samples recovered from Cooper's tie.[129][220]

Similar hijackings[edit]

Cooper was not the first to attempt air piracy for personal gain. In early November 1971, for example, a Canadian man named Paul Joseph Cini hijacked an Air Canada DC-8 over Montana, but was overpowered by the crew when he put down his shotgun to strap on his parachute.[306] Cooper's apparent success inspired a flurry of imitators, mostly during 1972. Some notable examples from that year:

  • Robb Heady, a 22-year-old former Army paratrooper hijacked United Airlines Flight 239 from Reno to San Francisco, CA, on June 2, 1972. Carrying his own parachute and using a .357 revolver, he demanded $200,000 in ransom money. He successfully jumped from the plane and was captured the next morning.[307]
  • Richard Charles LaPoint, an Army veteran from Boston,[308] boarded Hughes Airwest Flight 800 at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas on January 20. Brandishing what he claimed was a bomb while the DC-9 was on the taxiway, he demanded $50,000, two parachutes, and a helmet.[309] After releasing the 51 passengers and two flight attendants, he ordered the plane on an eastward trajectory toward Denver,[310] then bailed out over the treeless plains of northeastern Colorado. Authorities, tracking the locator-equipped parachute and his footprints in the snow and mud, apprehended him a few hours later.[311][312][313]
  • Richard McCoy Jr., a former Army Green Beret, hijacked a United Airlines 727-100 on April 7 after it left Denver, diverted it to San Francisco, then bailed out over Utah with $500,000 in ransom money.[254] He landed safely but was arrested two days later.[257][248]
  • Frederick Hahneman used a handgun to hijack an Eastern Air Lines 727 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on May 7, demanded $303,000, and eventually parachuted into his native Honduras. A month later, with the FBI in pursuit and a $25,000 bounty on his head, he surrendered at the American embassy in Tegucigalpa.[314][315]
  • Martin McNally, an unemployed service-station attendant, used a submachine gun on June 23 to commandeer an American Airlines 727 en route from St. Louis, Missouri, to Tulsa, Oklahoma, then diverted it eastward to Indiana and bailed out with $500,000 in ransom.[316] McNally lost the ransom money as he exited the aircraft, but landed safely near Peru, Indiana, and was apprehended a few days later in a Detroit suburb.[better source needed][317] When interviewed in a 2020 podcast retrospective, McNally said he had been inspired by Cooper.[318]

Fifteen hijackings similar to Cooper's—all unsuccessful—were attempted in 1972.[319] With the advent of universal luggage searches in 1973 (see Airport security), the general incidence of hijackings dropped dramatically.[320] There were no further notable Cooper imitators until July 11, 1980, when Glenn K. Tripp seized Northwest Orient Flight 608 at Seattle-Tacoma Airport, demanding $600,000 ($100,000 by an independent account),[unreliable source?][321] two parachutes, and the assassination of his boss. A quick-thinking flight attendant secretly drugged Tripp's alcoholic beverage with Valium. After a ten-hour standoff, during which Tripp reduced his demands to three cheeseburgers and a ground vehicle in which to escape, he was apprehended.[unreliable source?][322] Tripp would later attempt to hijack the same Northwest flight on January 21, 1983, and this time demanded to be flown to Afghanistan. When the plane landed in Portland, he was shot and killed by FBI agents.[323]

Aftermath[edit]

Airport security[edit]

Despite the initiation of the federal Sky Marshal Program the previous year,[320] 31 hijackings were committed in U.S. airspace in 1972; nineteen of them were for the specific purpose of extorting money.[319] In 15 of the extortion cases, the hijackers also demanded parachutes.[319] In early 1973, the FAA began requiring airlines to search all passengers and their bags. Amid multiple lawsuits charging that such searches violated Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure, federal courts ruled that they were acceptable when applied universally and when limited to searches for weapons and explosives.[320] Only two hijackings were attempted in 1973, both by psychiatric patients; one hijacker, Samuel Byck, intended to crash the airliner into the White House to kill President Nixon.[324]

Aircraft modifications[edit]

A Cooper vane in the unlocked position

Due to multiple "copycat" hijackings in 1972, the FAA required that the exterior of all Boeing 727 aircraft be fitted with a spring-loaded device, later dubbed the "Cooper vane", that prevents lowering of the aft airstair during flight.[325] The device consists of a flat blade of aluminum mounted on a pivot. The pivot is at the center of the blade. The vane is fastened to the forward end of the blade forward of the pivot and extends away from the fuselage. The long edge of the vane is perpendicular to the blade. When the airplane is in flight, the force of air pushing against the vane exceeds the resistance of the spring and rotates the vane and blade about the pivot so that the vane becomes parallel with the airflow. This places the portion of the blade aft of the pivot over the edge of the airstair and physically blocks the airstair from opening. When the airplane is on the ground and the force of the spring is greater than the airflow against the vane, the spring rotates the vane perpendicular to the airflow and pivots the blade away from the edge of the airstair. This allows normal operation of the airstair on the ground. Operation of the vane is automatic and cannot be overridden from within the aircraft.[320][326] As a direct result of the hijacking, the installation of peepholes was mandated in all cockpit doors; this enables the cockpit crew to observe passengers without opening the cockpit door.[167]

Subsequent history of N467US[edit]

The aircraft involved in the hijacking in 1979 while in service with Piedmont Airlines

In 1978, the hijacked 727-100 aircraft was sold by Northwest Orient to Piedmont Airlines, where it was re-registered N838N and continued in domestic carrier service.[327] In 1984, it was purchased by the charter company Key Airlines, re-registered N29KA, and incorporated into the Air Force's civilian charter fleet that shuttled workers between Nellis Air Force Base and the Tonopah Test Range during the F-117 Nighthawk development program.[328] In 1996, the aircraft was scrapped for parts in a Memphis boneyard.[101]

Death of Earl J. Cossey[edit]

On April 23, 2013, Earl J. Cossey, the owner of the skydiving school that furnished the four parachutes that were given to Cooper, was found dead in his home in Woodinville, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. His death was ruled a homicide due to blunt-force trauma to the head. The perpetrator remains unknown.[329] Some commenters alleged possible links to the Cooper case,[330] but authorities responded that they had no reason to believe that any such link exists.[331] Woodinville officials later announced that burglary was most likely the motive for the crime.[332]

In popular culture[edit]

Himmelsbach famously called Cooper a "rotten sleazy crook,"[333] but his bold and unusual crime inspired a cult following that was expressed in song, film, and literature. Novelty shops sold t-shirts emblazoned with "D. B. Cooper, Where Are You?"[103] Restaurants and bowling alleys in the Pacific Northwest hold regular Cooper-themed promotions and sell tourist souvenirs. A "Cooper Day" celebration has been held at the Ariel General Store and Tavern each November since 1974 with the exception of 2015, the year its owner, Dona Elliot, died.[334]

Characters and situations inspired by Cooper have appeared in the story lines of the television series Prison Break, Justified, The Blacklist, NewsRadio, Leverage, Journeyman, Renegade, Numb3rs, 30 Rock, Drunk History, Breaking Bad, and Loki, as well as the 1981 film The Pursuit of D. B. Cooper, the 2004 film Without a Paddle, and a book titled The Vesuvius Prophecy, based on The 4400 TV series.[335]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "D.B. Cooper Hijacking". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  2. ^ National Law Enforcement Bulletin Nov 28th, 1971 (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 28, 1971. p. 294.
  3. ^ Acting Director Memo to Seattle SAC, June 27th, 1972 (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. June 27, 1972. p. 471.
  4. ^ "FBI.gov History". Archived from the original on November 5, 2016. Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  5. ^ National Law Enforcement Bulletin Nov 28th, 1971 (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 28, 1971. p. 294.
  6. ^ "Hijacked plane makes landing at Seattle airport". Spokesman-Review. Associated Press. November 25, 1971. p. 1. Archived from the original on March 23, 2020. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  7. ^ 2nd FBI Interview with Tina Mucklow, Dec 3rd, 1971 (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 159.
  8. ^ Bragg 2005, p. 2.
  9. ^ Steven, Richard (November 24, 1996). "When D.B. Cooper Dropped From Sky: Where did the daring, He jumped off the plane. mysterious skyjacker go? Twenty-five years later, the search is still on for even a trace". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. A20.
  10. ^ "Unmasking D.B. Cooper". New York Magazine. Archived from the original on August 16, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  11. ^ 1st FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Reno, Nevada (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 24, 1971. p. 154.
  12. ^ "A byte out of history: the D.B. Cooper mystery". FBI. Archived from the original on October 13, 2010. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  13. ^ a b When Schaffner's description was relayed to the FBI command post in Portland, agents pointed out that dynamite sticks are typically brown or beige in color; the eight red cylinders were probably highway or railroad flares. But because they could not be certain, intervention could not be recommended. Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, pp. 40–41.
  14. ^ "Transcript of Crew Communications" (PDF). N467us.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 21, 2013. Retrieved February 25, 2011.
  15. ^ Gray 2011b, pp. 41.
  16. ^ a b Earl Cossey, the skydiving instructor who supplied the parachutes, told some sources that three of the four parachutes (one primary and both reserves) were returned to him. The FBI maintained that only two parachutes, a primary and a cannibalized reserve, were found aboard the plane. Gunther 1985, p. 50.
  17. ^ Marks, Andrea. "The Missing Piece of the D.B. Cooper Story". RollingStone.com. Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved August 9, 2022.
  18. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 160. Tina said 'do you want me to stay here?' and the man replied, 'yes'.
  19. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 160. One of the specific demands that he made was that the fuel truck is to come first and start fueling the plane immediately. After fueling is completed and the money is aboard, he indicated that the passengers would be released, and the last item to be brought aboard the aircraft would be the chutes, and at that time only the crew members were to be aboard and they must stay out of the isle and remain in their seats.
  20. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, p. 20.
  21. ^ Gray 2011b, pp. 47.
  22. ^ Edwards 2021, pp. 19.
  23. ^ 1st FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Reno, Nevada (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 24, 1971. p. 150. the hijacker insisted that she be physically present by his side at all times. She recalled that she sat with him almost the entire time of the flight.
  24. ^ FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Reno, Nevada (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 24, 1971. p. 156. She also recalled that while they were in the holding pattern prior to landing, he at one time looked out the window and observed 'We're over Tacoma now'" and "...she stated that she recalled some conversation to the effect that the parachutes were coming from McChord Air Force Base. The hijacker remarked that it was about 20 minutes from McChord to the Seattle-Tacoma Airport.
  25. ^ FBI clip of Seattle Times article (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 26, 1971. p. 174. He was not nervous. He seemed rather nice and he was not cruel or nasty.
  26. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 161. She asked him why he picked Northwest Airlines to hijack and he laughed and said, 'It's not because I have a grudge against your airlines, it's just because I have a grudge.' He paused and said that the flight suited his time, place, and plans.
  27. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 161. He asked her where she was from and she told him that she was from Pennsylvania, but was living in Minneapolis, Minn. He indicated that Minneapolis, Minn., was very nice country.
  28. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 160.
  29. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 161. Other conversation centered around personal habits such as smoking and he asked her if she did and she said she used to but had quit and he offered her a cigarette which she took and smoked.
  30. ^ FBI Interview with George R. Labissoniere in Seattle, WA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 24, 1971. p. 170. The cowboy was hassling Tina for information about the mechanical difficulties and generally being a nuisance. The hijacker seemed to enjoy the situation at first but told the cowboy to go back to his seat.
  31. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 161. After he was seated and Tina returned to seat 18 D, next to the hijacker, he said, "If that is a Sky Marshal I don't want any more of that," and she reassured him that it wasn't and further, that there were no sky marshals on that flight.
  32. ^ Edwards 2021, pp. 18.
  33. ^ "Please Check Your $20 Bills, FBI Says". Los Angeles Times. December 26, 1971. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  34. ^ FBI Memo (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 1, 1971. p. 101. microfilm upon which was record the serial number of all the bills...
  35. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, p. 28.
  36. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 163. The Flight landed at Seattle International Airport at 5:46 Pacific time.
  37. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 163. Prior to landing, the captain wanted permission to park his aircraft away from the terminal and the hijacker said okay.
  38. ^ FBI Memo (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 26, 1971. p. 15. He requested an unmarked car and a representative of the airline would be allowed to approach the aircraft from a ten o'clock relative position. The only other equipment to go near the aircraft was to be the air stairs and refueling equipment.
  39. ^ Cord Zum Spreckel FBI Interview (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 26, 1971. p. 451. the blonde stewardess, who had been sitting next to the hijacker, got up and went forward and out of the forward exit of the plane. He said she returned through the same door after several minutes carrying a package which was made of off-white canvas.
  40. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 163. [she] departed the aircraft through the forward door as soon as the stairs were put in place.
  41. ^ FBI Memorandum Feb 8, 1973 (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. February 8, 1973. p. 471.
  42. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 163. [Mucklow] recalled that she, in an attempt at being humorous, stated to the hijacker while the passengers were unloading that there was obviously a lot of money in the bag and she wondered if she could have some. The hijacker immediately agreed with her suggestion and_took one package of the money, denominations unrecalled by and handed it to her. She returned the money, stating to the hijacker that she was not permitted to accept gratuities or words to that effect. In this connection recalled that at one time during the flight the hijacker had pulled some single bills from his pocket and had attempted to tip all the girls on the crew. Again they declined in compliance with company policy.
  43. ^ 1st FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 24, 1971. p. 153. She also recalled that at this time all hostesses and male crew members were still aboard the aircraft.
  44. ^ 1st FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 24, 1971. p. 152-153.
  45. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 163. [Alice] came back to where the hijacker was seated and asked if she could get her purse and he said that she should come on back, he wouldn't bite her. Then she asked if the stewardesses could get off and he said, "yes.
  46. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 163. At this point she gave him a paper sheet giving instructions on how to jump and he said he didn't need that.
  47. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, pp. 35–36.
  48. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 163. He appeared irritated that they did not give him a knapsack.
  49. ^ 1st FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 24, 1971. p. 155. ..he was occupied with one of the parachute packs...and attempting to in some way attach it to his body.
  50. ^ 1st FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 24, 1971. p. 155. Her recollections in this regard were vague.
  51. ^ Rothenberg, David; Ulvaeus, Marta (1999). The New Earth Reader: The Best of Terra Nova. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0262181952.
  52. ^ [1], Elliott, Gina. “CRIME: The Bandit Who Went Out into the Cold.” Time, Time Inc., 6 Dec. 1971, https://content.time.com/time/subscriber/article/0,33009,877495,00.html .
  53. ^ a b c Caldwell, Earl (November 26, 1971). "Hijacker collects ransom of $200,000; parachutes from jet and disappears". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 8, 2021. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  54. ^ Rothenberg & Ulvaeus 1999, p. 5.
  55. ^ Buergin, Miles (October 14, 2020). "Knowing Nevada: Revisiting the Mystery of D.B. Cooper". KRNV. Archived from the original on January 13, 2022. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  56. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, pp. 33–35.
  57. ^ a b Gray 2011b, pp. 74–77.
  58. ^ 1st FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 24, 1971. p. 153. It was finally agreed...that Mucklow would remain on board to lower the door and stairs after the aircraft was airborne.
  59. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, p. 36.
  60. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, pp. 45–46.
  61. ^ Seattle Times Article Clipping (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 27, 1971. p. 141.
  62. ^ 1st FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 24, 1971. p. 156. She told him that she was fearful of being sucked out of the airplane.
  63. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 164. The cockpit called and told her to use the escape rope to secure herself when they found out that she was going to lower the ladder once the aircraft is airborne. She related this to the hijacker and he said, "no," he didn't want her to go up front or them to come back.
  64. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 164. She asked him to cut some nylon cord from the parachute for her to use as a safety line when she opened the rear ladder and the hijacker said, "Nevermind,” that he would do it..
  65. ^ 1st FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. November 24, 1971. p. 156. the hijacker suddenly told her to go forward of the aft compartment, to close the curtain behind her and not to return to the rear compartment again.
  66. ^ Marks, Andrea. "The Missing Piece of the D.B. Cooper Story". RollingStone.com. Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved August 9, 2022. “Probably one of the last things I did was to say, ‘Will you please, please take the bomb with you?’ ” she says.
  67. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 164. she pleaded with him to take the bomb with him and he said he would take it with him or disarm it before he leaves.
  68. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, p. 42.
  69. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 164. the last time she saw him he had a nylon cord tied around his waist and was standing in the isle.
  70. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 164. Approximately four minutes after take off, he stood up, told her to go to the cockpit
  71. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, p. 44.
  72. ^ Perry, Douglas (November 8, 2021). "D.B. Cooper at 50: Push to solve case gains steam, but much about famous skyjacking remains a mystery". The Oregonian. Archived from the original on January 13, 2022. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  73. ^ a b Bragg 2005, p. 4.
  74. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 164. Before descending at Reno, Nev., she called repeatedly over the intercom system to the hijacker to cooperate, that the aircraft must land. The last message was, "Sir, we are going to land now, please put up the stairs."
  75. ^ Edwards 2021, pp. 42.
  76. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, p. 48.
  77. ^ a b c d e f Pasternak, Douglas (July 24, 2000). "Skyjacker at large". U.S. News & World Report. 129 (4): 72–73. ISSN 0041-5537.
  78. ^ Cowan, James (January 3, 2008). "F.B.I. reheats cold case". National Post. Archived from the original on January 21, 2008. Retrieved January 9, 2008.
  79. ^ a b "D.B. Cooper part 07 of 67". FBI Records: The Vault. FBI. Archived from the original on December 14, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  80. ^ Motaher, Maria. "D.B. Cooper hijacking". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on November 5, 2016. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  81. ^ Browning, W. (July 22, 2016). One mystery solved in 'D.B. Cooper' skyjacking fiasco. Columbia Journalism Review Archived September 30, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, retrieved July 29, 2016.
  82. ^ Guzman, Monica (November 27, 2007). Update: Everyone wants a piece of the D. B. Cooper legend. Seattle Post-Intelligencer archive Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved February 25, 2011.
  83. ^ Browning, William (July 18, 2016). "A reporter's role in the notorious unsolved mystery of 'D.B. Cooper'". Columbia Journalism Review. New York. Archived from the original on July 21, 2016. Retrieved July 19, 2016.
  84. ^ Contemporary stories from the AP and the UPI using the name "D. B. Cooper":
    * Grossweiler, Ed (November 26, 1971). "Hijacker bails out with loot". Free Lance-Star. (Fredericksburg, Virginia). Associated Press. p. 1. Archived from the original on February 3, 2021. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
    * "Wilderness area combed for parachute skyjacker". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. November 26, 1971. p. 1. Archived from the original on February 6, 2021. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  85. ^ Memo from Northwest Airlines, Inc to FBI (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 15, 1971. p. 300.
  86. ^ Taylor, Michael (November 24, 1996). "D.B. Cooper legend still up in air 25 years after leap, hijackers prompts strong feelings". San Francisco Chronicle.
  87. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, p. 47.
  88. ^ Seattle SAC Letter to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. January 14, 1972. p. 19. The reaction was instantaneous and was described by REDACTED as being the same reaction that they had in the airplane when they believe that the hijacker jumped.
  89. ^ Skolnik, Sam (November 22, 2001). "30 years ago, D.B. Cooper's night leap began a legend". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Archived from the original on September 6, 2012. Retrieved January 9, 2008. (subscription required)
  90. ^ Topographic map, northern half of primary search area Archived July 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved February 25, 2011.
  91. ^ Topographic map, southern half of primary search area Archived July 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved February 25, 2011.
  92. ^ a b Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, pp. 67–68.
  93. ^ "Aeronautical Information Manual". Federal Aviation Administration. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  94. ^ a b c d e Gray, Geoffrey (October 21, 2007). "Unmasking D.B. Cooper". New York magazine. ISSN 0028-7369. Archived from the original on October 22, 2007. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
  95. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, pp. 70–71.
  96. ^ Olson 2010, p. 34.
  97. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, pp. 101–104.
  98. ^ "Body of Slain Girl Identified". No. Page 79 of FBI File. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. April 4, 1972. Retrieved August 4, 2022.
  99. ^ Red, Rose (February 16, 2008). "Murder at Old Cedar Creek Grist Mill, Woodland, Washington – Infamous Crime Scenes". Waymarking. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  100. ^ Himmelsbach & Worcester 1986, pp. 87–89.
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  245. ^ 2nd FBI interview with Tina Mucklow in Philadelphia, PA (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. December 3, 1971. p. 161. She asked him why he picked Northwest Airlines to hijack and he laughed and said, 'It's not because I have a grudge against your airlines, it's just because I have a grudge.' He paused and said that the flight suited his time, place, and plans.
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  263. ^ NORJAK Memo (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. April 10, 1972. p. 263. In addition, he requested the VAL to give him his own luggage from the plane's cargo department before they departed, and his own parachute and jump suit, helmet and flares, together with 100 ft. of rope in his luggage.
  264. ^ NORJAK Memo (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. April 10, 1972. p. 263. they have determined that McCoy is a makeup artist. One of the stewardesses in their case described the subject as being swarthy or dark or possibly a Mexican, He had a dark mustache. However, they have located some mustache paste in his effects.
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  266. ^ NORJAK Memo (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. April 11, 1972. p. 321. I advised him that the 3 stewardess witnesses in Minneapolis had observed the photograph of RICHARD FLOYD McCOY and advised that he was not identical with the NORJAK subject.
  267. ^ NORJAK Memo (Report). Federal Bureau of Investigation. April 12, 1972. p. 439. Photograph of Ricahrd Floyd McCoy has been displayed to three witnesses by Portland Division, three witnesses by Seattle Division, and three stewardesses in Minneapolis Division. None identify McCoy as the Hijacker.
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  272. ^ Some notable examples, cited by Rhodes and Calame: Cooper's age was estimated by all witnesses as mid-40s, McCoy was 29; most witnesses, including all three flight attendants, said Cooper had "dark brown, piercing" eyes, McCoy's eyes were light blue; Cooper's ears had no distinguishing characteristics, McCoy's ears stuck out so prominently that his nickname was "Dumbo", and he wore a scarf to conceal them during the Denver hijacking; Cooper drank bourbon and chain-smoked cigarettes, McCoy was an observant Mormon who did not smoke or drink alcohol; Cooper was described as having a raspy voice with no particular accent, McCoy had a noticeable southern accent, and a marked lisp due to surgical correction of a cleft palate in childhood. Rhodes & Calame (1991), pp. 86, 94, 96, 134, 145.
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