Warning: include(/home/humanityhistory/public_html/addons/www.historymysteries.org/admin/foundation/blueprint/sidebar.php): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/humanityhistory/public_html/addons/www.historymysteries.org/heists/db-cooper.php on line 6

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/home/humanityhistory/public_html/addons/www.historymysteries.org/admin/foundation/blueprint/sidebar.php' for inclusion (include_path='.:/opt/cpanel/ea-php56/root/usr/share/pear') in /home/humanityhistory/public_html/addons/www.historymysteries.org/heists/db-cooper.php on line 6

Heists > DB Cooper

DB Cooper

Background

D. B. Cooper is a media epithet popularly used to refer to an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft in the airspace between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, on November 24, 1971, extorted $200,000 in ransom (equivalent to $1,170,000 in 2015), and parachuted to an uncertain fate. Despite an extensive manhunt and protracted FBI investigation, the perpetrator has never been located or identified. While FBI investigators stated from the beginning that Cooper probably did not survive his risky jump,[1] they nevertheless pursued all credible leads, evidence, and witnesses over a 45-year period following the crime.[2] As yet, no conclusive evidence has surfaced regarding Cooper's true identity or whereabouts. (The suspect purchased his airline ticket using the alias Dan Cooper, but because of a news media miscommunication he became known in popular lore as "D. B. Cooper".) Numerous theories of widely varying plausibility have been proposed over the years by experts, reporters, and amateur enthusiasts.[3][4] The discovery of a small cache of ransom bills in 1980 triggered renewed interest, but ultimately only deepened the mystery, and the great majority of the ransom remains unrecovered. The case remains the only unsolved air piracy in American aviation history.[3][5][6] The FBI officially suspended active investigation of the case in July 2016, but continues to solicit submission of any physical evidence that might emerge related to the parachutes or the ransom money.[7][8] Contents [hide] 1 Hijacking 1.1 Passengers released 1.2 Back in the air 2 Investigation 2.1 Later developments 2.2 Search for ransom money 2.3 Statute of limitations 2.4 Physical evidence 2.5 Subsequent FBI disclosures 3 Theories and conjectures 4 Copycat hijackings 5 Suspects 5.1 Kenneth Christiansen 5.2 William Gossett 5.3 Richard Floyd McCoy, Jr. 5.4 Duane Weber 5.5 John List 5.6 Barbara Dayton 5.7 Ted Mayfield 5.8 Jack Coffelt 5.9 Lynn Doyle Cooper 5.10 Robert Rackstraw 6 Aftermath 6.1 Airport security 6.2 Aircraft modifications 6.3 Subsequent history of N467US 6.4 Earl Cossey 7 Cultural phenomena 8 See also 9 Footnotes 10 Further reading 11 External links Hijacking[edit] The incident began mid-afternoon at Portland International Airport on Thanksgiving eve, November 24, 1971. A man carrying a black attaché case approached the flight counter of Northwest Orient Airlines. He identified himself as "Dan Cooper" and purchased a one-way ticket on Flight 305, a 30-minute trip to Seattle.[9] Cooper boarded the aircraft, a Boeing 727-100 (FAA registration N467US), and took seat 18C[3] (18E by one account,[10] 15D by another[11]) in the rear of the passenger cabin. He lit a cigarette and ordered a bourbon and soda. Eyewitnesses on board recalled a man in his mid-forties, between 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) and 6 feet 0 inches (1.83 m) tall. He wore a black lightweight raincoat, loafers, a dark suit, a neatly pressed white collared shirt, a black necktie, and a mother of pearl tie pin.[12] FBI wanted poster of D. B. Cooper Flight 305, approximately one-third full, took off on schedule at 2:50 pm, local time (PST). Cooper passed a note to Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant situated nearest to him in a jump seat attached to the aft stair door.[3] Schaffner, assuming the note contained a lonely businessman's phone number, dropped it unopened into her purse.[13] Cooper leaned toward her and whispered, "Miss, you'd better look at that note. I have a bomb."[14] The note was printed in neat, all-capital letters with a felt pen.[15] Its exact wording is unknown, as Cooper later reclaimed it,[16][17] but Schaffner recalled that it indicated he had a bomb in his briefcase, and wanted her to sit with him.[18] Schaffner did as requested, then quietly asked to see the bomb. Cooper cracked open his briefcase long enough for her to glimpse eight red cylinders[19] ("four on top of four") attached to wires coated with red insulation, and a large cylindrical battery.[20] After closing the briefcase, he dictated his demands: $200,000 in "negotiable American currency";[21] four parachutes (two primary and two reserve); and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the aircraft upon arrival.[22] Schaffner conveyed Cooper's instructions to the cockpit; when she returned, he was wearing dark sunglasses.[3] The pilot, William Scott, contacted Seattle-Tacoma Airport air traffic control, which in turn informed local and federal authorities. The 36 other passengers were informed that their arrival in Seattle would be delayed because of a "minor mechanical difficulty".[23] Northwest Orient's president, Donald Nyrop, authorized payment of the ransom and ordered all employees to cooperate fully with the hijacker.[24] The aircraft circled Puget Sound for approximately two hours to allow Seattle police and the FBI time to assemble Cooper's parachutes and ransom money, and to mobilize emergency personnel.[3] Schaffner 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 mentioned, correctly, that McChord Air Force Base was only a 20-minute drive (at that time) from Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Schaffner described him as calm, polite, and well-spoken, not at all consistent with the stereotypes (enraged, hardened criminals or "take-me-to-Cuba" political dissidents) popularly associated with air piracy at the time. Tina Mucklow, another flight attendant, agreed. "He wasn't nervous," she told investigators. "He seemed rather nice. He was never cruel or nasty. He was thoughtful and calm all the time."[3] He ordered a second bourbon and water, paid his drink tab (and attempted to give Schaffner the change),[3] and offered to request meals for the flight crew during the stop in Seattle.[25] FBI agents assembled the ransom money from several Seattle-area banks—10,000 unmarked 20-dollar bills, many with serial numbers beginning with the letter "L" indicating issuance by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, most carrying a "Series 1969-C" designation—and made a microfilm photograph of each of them.[26] Cooper rejected the military-issue parachutes offered by McChord AFB personnel, demanding instead civilian parachutes with manually operated ripcords. Seattle police obtained them from a local skydiving school.[16] Passengers released[edit] At 5:24 pm Cooper was informed that his demands had been met, and at 5:39 pm the aircraft landed at Seattle-Tacoma Airport.[27] Cooper instructed Scott to taxi the jet to an isolated, brightly lit section of the tarmac and extinguish lights in the cabin to deter police snipers. Northwest Orient's Seattle operations manager, Al Lee, approached the aircraft in street clothes (to avoid the possibility that Cooper might mistake his airline uniform for that of a police officer) and delivered the cash-filled knapsack and parachutes to Mucklow via the aft stairs. Once the delivery was completed, Cooper permitted all passengers, Schaffner, and senior flight attendant Alice Hancock to leave the plane.[28] During refueling 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 (190 km/h; 120 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.[29] Copilot William 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, Nevada, as the refueling stop.[30] Finally, Cooper directed that the plane take off with the rear exit door open and its staircase extended. 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 himself once they were airborne.[31] An FAA official requested a face-to-face meeting with Cooper aboard the aircraft, which was denied.[32] The refueling process was delayed because of a vapor lock in the fuel tanker truck's pumping mechanism,[33] and Cooper became suspicious; but he allowed a replacement tanker truck to continue the refueling—and a third after the second ran dry.[3] Back in the air[edit] Boeing 727 with the aft airstair open At approximately 7:40 pm the 727 took off with only Cooper, pilot Scott, flight attendant Mucklow, copilot Rataczak, and flight engineer H. E. Anderson aboard. Two F-106 fighter aircraft scrambled from nearby McChord Air Force Base followed behind the airliner, one above it and one below, out of Cooper's view.[34] A Lockheed T-33 trainer, diverted from an unrelated Air National Guard mission, also shadowed the 727 until it ran low on fuel and turned back near the Oregon–California state line.[35] After takeoff, Cooper told Mucklow to join the rest of the crew in the cockpit and remain there with the door closed. As she complied, Mucklow observed Cooper tying something around his waist. At approximately 8:00 pm a warning light flashed in the cockpit, indicating that the aft airstair apparatus had been activated. The crew's offer of assistance via the aircraft's intercom system was curtly refused. The crew soon noticed a subjective change of air pressure, indicating that the aft door was open.[36] At approximately 8:13 pm the aircraft's tail section sustained a sudden upward movement, significant enough to require trimming to bring the plane back to level flight.[37][38] At approximately 10:15 pm Scott and Rataczak landed the 727, with the aft airstair still deployed, at Reno Airport. FBI agents, state troopers, sheriff's deputies, and Reno police surrounded the jet, as it had not yet been determined with certainty that Cooper was no longer aboard; but an armed search quickly confirmed that he was gone.[39] Investigation[edit] Aboard the airliner FBI agents recovered 66 unidentified latent fingerprints,[6] Cooper's black clip-on tie and mother of pearl tie clip, and two of the four parachutes,[40] one of which had been opened and two shroud lines cut from its canopy.[41] Eyewitnesses in Portland, Seattle, and Reno, and all those who personally interacted with Cooper were interviewed. A series of composite sketches was developed.[42] Local police and FBI agents immediately began questioning possible suspects. 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. His involvement was quickly ruled out; 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.[43][44] A wire service reporter (Clyde Jabin of UPI by most accounts,[45][46] Joe Frazier of AP by others[47]) republished the error, followed by numerous other media sources; the moniker "D. B. Cooper" became lodged in the public's collective memory.[38] An animation of the 727's rear airstair, deploying in flight. The gravity-operated apparatus remained open until the aircraft landed. (Click to view animation) 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 significantly by location and altitude), changed Cooper's projected landing point considerably.[48] An important variable was the length of time he remained in free fall before pulling his rip cord—if indeed he succeeded in opening a parachute at all.[49] Neither of the Air Force fighter 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 human figure clad entirely in black clothing could easily have gone undetected.[50] The T-33 pilots never made visual contact with the 727 at all.[51] An experimental re-creation was conducted using the same aircraft hijacked by Cooper in the same flight configuration, piloted by Scott. FBI agents, pushing a 200-pound (91 kg) sled out of the open airstair, were able to reproduce the upward motion of the tail section described by the flight crew at 8:13 pm. Based on this experiment, it was concluded that 8:13 pm was the most likely jump time.[52] At that moment the aircraft was flying through a heavy rainstorm over the Lewis River in southwestern Washington.[48] 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.[53] Search efforts focused on Clark and Cowlitz Counties, encompassing the terrain immediately south and north, respectively, of the Lewis River in southwest Washington.[54][55] 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.[56] No trace of Cooper, nor any of the equipment presumed to have left the aircraft with him, was found. 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 standard aviation terminology[57] but "Vector 23" in most Cooper literature[3][6][58]) from Seattle to Reno. While 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.[59] In early 1972, shortly after the spring thaw, teams of FBI agents aided by some 200 Army soldiers from Fort Lewis, along with Air Force personnel, National Guard troops, 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.[60] Electronic Explorations Company, a marine salvage firm, used a submarine to search the 200-foot (61 m) depths of Lake Merwin.[61] Two local women stumbled upon a skeleton in an abandoned structure in Clark County; it was later identified as the remains of a female teenager who had been abducted and murdered several weeks before.[62] Ultimately, the search operation—arguably the most extensive, and intensive, in U.S. history—uncovered no significant material evidence related to the hijacking.[63] Later developments[edit] Subsequent analyses called the original landing zone estimate into question: Scott, who was flying the aircraft manually because of Cooper's speed and altitude demands, later determined that his flight path was significantly farther east than initially assumed.[2] 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.[64] This and other supplemental data suggested that the actual drop zone was probably south-southeast of the original estimate, in the drainage area of the Washougal River.[65] "I have to confess," wrote retired FBI chief investigator Ralph Himmelsbach in his 1986 book, "if I [were] going to look for Cooper, I would head for the Washougal."[66] The Washougal Valley and its surroundings have been searched repeatedly by private individuals and groups in subsequent years; to date, no discoveries directly traceable to the hijacking have been reported.[2] Search for ransom money[edit] In late 1971 the FBI distributed lists of the ransom serial numbers to financial institutions, casinos, race tracks, and other businesses routinely conducting significant cash transactions, and to law enforcement agencies around the world. Northwest Orient offered a reward of 15 percent of the recovered money, to a maximum of $25,000. In early 1972 U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell released the serial numbers to the general public.[67] In 1972 two men used counterfeit 20-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.[68] 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.[69] 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.[70] Statute of limitations[edit] In 1976 discussion arose over impending expiration of the statute of limitations on the hijacking. Most published legal analysis agreed that it would make little difference,[71] as interpretation of the statute varies considerably from case to case and court to court, and a prosecutor could argue that Cooper had forfeited immunity on any of several valid technical grounds.[72][73] 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.[74] The indictment formally initiated prosecution that can be continued, should the hijacker be apprehended, at any time in the future.[72] Physical evidence[edit] In 1978 a placard containing 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 the basic path of Flight 305.[75] Portion of Brian Ingram's 1980 discovery In February 1980 an eight-year-old boy named Brian Ingram, vacationing with his family on the Columbia River about 9 miles (14 km) downstream from Vancouver, Washington, and 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Ariel, uncovered three packets of the ransom cash, significantly disintegrated but still bundled in rubber bands, as he raked the sandy riverbank to build a campfire.[76] 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.[77][78] The discovery launched several new rounds of conjecture, and ultimately raised many 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.[79] If so, it confirmed that Cooper had not landed near Lake Merwin, nor in any other part of the Lewis River, which feeds into the Columbia well downstream from the discovery site; and it lent credence to supplemental speculation (see Later developments above) placing the drop zone near the Washougal River, which merges with the Columbia upstream from the discovery site.[80] But the "free floating" hypothesis presented its own 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 observed 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,[81] an observation confirmed experimentally by the Cooper Research Team (see Ongoing investigation below).[82] Geologic evidence suggested, however, that the bills arrived at the area of their discovery—a beach front known as Tina (or Tena) 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 river bank by the dredge and the sand layer in which the bills were buried, indicating that the bills arrived long after dredging had been completed.[79][83] The Cooper Research Team later challenged Palmer's conclusion, citing evidence that the clay layers were natural deposits. That finding, if true, favors an arrival time of less than one year after the event (based on the rubber band experiment), but does not help to explain how the bundles got to Tina Bar, or from where they came.[84] Multiple alternative theories were advanced. Some surmised that the money had been found at a distant location by someone (or possibly even a wild animal), carried to the river bank, and reburied there. There was also the possibility that the money had been found on the riverbank earlier, perhaps before the dredging, and buried in a superficial sand layer at a later time.[85] The sheriff of Cowlitz County proposed that Cooper accidentally dropped a few bundles on the airstair, which then blew off the aircraft and fell into the Columbia River. One local newspaper editor theorized that Cooper, knowing he could never spend the money, dumped it in the river or buried it there (and possibly elsewhere) himself.[86] No hypothesis offered to date satisfactorily explains all of the existing evidence.[82] In 1981 a human skull was unearthed along the same riverbank during excavations in search of additional evidence. Forensic pathologists eventually determined that it belonged to a woman, possibly of Native American ancestry.[6] In 1986, after protracted negotiations, the recovered bills were divided equally between Ingram and Northwest Orient's insurer; the FBI retained 14 examples as evidence.[67][87] Ingram sold fifteen of his bills at auction in 2008 for about $37,000.[88] To date, none of the 9,710 remaining bills have turned up anywhere in the world. Their serial numbers remain available online for public search.[89] In 1988 a portion of a parachute was raised from the bottom of the same stretch of the Columbia River, but FBI experts determined that it could not have been Cooper's.[90] In 2008 children unearthed another parachute near Amboy, Washington, about 6 miles (9.7 km) due south of Lake Merwin, which proved to be of World War II-era military origin.[91][92][93] The Columbia River ransom money and the airstair instruction placard remain the only bona fide physical evidence from the hijacking ever found outside the aircraft.[94] Some investigators have speculated that the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens may have obliterated any remaining physical clues.[95] Subsequent FBI disclosures[edit] In late 2007, the FBI announced that a partial DNA profile had been obtained from three organic samples found on the hijacker's clip-on tie in 2001,[48] 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."[96] The Bureau also made public a file of previously unreleased evidence, including Cooper's 1971 plane ticket from Portland to Seattle (price: $18.52 plus tax, total $20.00, paid in cash),[97] 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.[42][48][98] They also disclosed that Cooper chose 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 an inoperative ripcord intended for classroom demonstrations,[48] although it had clear markings identifying it to any experienced skydiver as non-functional.[99] (He cannibalized the other, functional reserve parachute, possibly using its shrouds to tie the money bag shut,[48] and to secure the bag to his body as witnessed by Mucklow[35]) The FBI stressed that inclusion of the dummy reserve parachute, one of four obtained in haste from a Seattle skydiving school, was accidental.[97] 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,[100] reinvestigated important components of the case using GPS, satellite imagery, and other technologies unavailable in 1971.[94] While little new information was gained regarding 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.[100] 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 it is today, 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.[101] The findings suggested that Cooper may have been a chemist or a metallurgist, or possibly an engineer or manager (the only employees who wore ties in such facilities at that time) in a metal or chemical manufacturing plant,[102] or at a company that recovered scrap metal from those types of factories, he said.[82] In July 2016, the FBI ended active investigation of the Cooper case, citing the need to focus on "more pressing priorities", but stressed that their case file remains officially open. The bureau continues to solicit credible physical evidence related to the parachutes and the ransom money.[8] Theories and conjectures[edit] FBI sketch of Cooper, with age progression In the years since the hijacking the FBI has periodically made public some of its working hypotheses and tentative conclusions about the case, drawn from witness testimony and the scarce physical evidence.[103] The official physical description remains unchanged and is considered reliable. Flight attendants Schaffner and Mucklow, who spent the most time with Cooper, were interviewed on the same night in separate cities,[1] and gave nearly identical descriptions: 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) to 6 feet 0 inches (1.83 m) tall, 170 to 180 pounds (77 to 82 kg), mid-40s, with close-set piercing brown eyes. Passengers and other eyewitnesses gave very similar descriptions.[104] Agents believe that Cooper was 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 20 minutes' driving time from the Seattle-Tacoma Airport—a detail most civilians would not know, or comment upon.[35] His financial situation was very likely desperate, as extortionists and other criminals who steal large amounts of money nearly always do so, according to experts, because they need it urgently; otherwise, the crime is not worth the considerable risk.[105] (A minority opinion is that Cooper was "a thrill seeker" who made the jump "just to prove it could be done."[66]) Agents theorize that he took his alias from a popular Belgian comic book series of the 1970s 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 web site, depicts test pilot Cooper skydiving in full paratrooper regalia.[94]) Because the Dan Cooper comics were never translated into English nor imported to the US, they speculate that he may have encountered them during a tour of duty in Europe.[94] Tom Kaye's Cooper Research Team (see Ongoing investigation) has suggested the alternative possibility that Cooper was Canadian, and found the comics in Canada, where they were also sold.[106] They note his specific demand for "negotiable American currency",[22] a phrase seldom if ever used by American citizens; since witnesses stated that Cooper had no distinguishable accent, Canada would be his most likely country of origin if he were not a US citizen.[107] The FBI task force believes that Cooper was a careful and shrewd planner. 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.[108] He chose a 727-100 aircraft because it was ideal for a bail-out escape, due not only to its aft airstair, but also the high, aftward placement of all three engines, which allowed a reasonably safe jump without risk of immediate incineration by jet exhaust. It had "single-point fueling" capability, a 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; and Cooper knew how to control its air speed and altitude without entering the cockpit, where he could have been overpowered by the three pilots.[109] In addition, Cooper was familiar with important details, such as the appropriate flap setting of 15 degrees (which was unique to that aircraft), and the typical refueling time. He knew that the aft 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.[110] He may even have known that the Central Intelligence Agency had been using 727s to drop agents and supplies behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War.[111] Cooper's meticulous planning may also have extended to the timing of his operation, and even his choice of attire, according to Kaye's research team. "The FBI searched but couldn't find anyone who disappeared that weekend," Kaye wrote, suggesting that the perpetrator may have simply returned to his normal occupation. "If you were planning on going 'back to work on Monday', then you would need as much time as possible to get out of the woods, find transportation and get home. The very best time for this is in front of a four-day weekend, which is the timing Dan Cooper chose for his crime." Furthermore, "if he was planning ahead, he knew he had to hitchhike out of the woods, and it is much easier to get picked up in a suit and tie than in old blue jeans."[82] Despite his careful planning and attention to detail, the Bureau feels strongly that Cooper lacked crucial skydiving skills and experience. "We originally thought Cooper was an experienced jumper, perhaps even a paratrooper," said Special Agent Larry Carr, leader of the investigative team from 2006 until its dissolution in 2016. "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 200-mile-an-hour wind in his face, wearing loafers and a trench coat. It was simply too risky. He also missed that his reserve 'chute was only for training, and had been sewn shut—something a skilled skydiver would have checked."[94] He also failed to bring or request a helmet,[112] chose to jump with the older and technically inferior of the two primary parachutes supplied to him,[48] and jumped into a −70 °F (−57 °C) wind chill without proper protection against the extreme cold.[113] Assuming that Cooper was not a paratrooper, but was an Air Force veteran, Carr believes that he could have been an aircraft cargo loader. Such an assignment would have given him knowledge and experience in the aviation industry; 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."[114] The Bureau has argued from the beginning that Cooper did not survive his jump.[94] "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.[1] Even if he did land safely, agents contend, survival in the mountainous terrain would have been all but impossible without an accomplice at a predetermined landing point, which would have required a precisely timed jump—necessitating, in turn, cooperation from the flight crew. There is no evidence that Cooper had any such help from the crew, nor any clear idea where he was when he jumped into the stormy, overcast darkness.[104]

Heists

Sources

Primary Sources

Secondary Sources