D. B. Cooper, FBI May Have Possible New Suspect

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | August 1, 2011      
D.B. Cooper

D.B. Cooper rendering from FBI, with age progression.

Who can’t help but be fascinated by D. Cooper? In 1971 the now almost mythical skyjacker lashed his ransom money to himself and parachuted out of a 727 over the PNW backcountry, never to be seen again. The only firm lead that’s surfaced since then is when in 1980 some of the ransom cash was found on the Columbia River near Vancouver, Washington.

It’s most likely that Cooper (an alias) died during his parachute jump. He took his plunge at night, in the rain, into the PNW wilderness with absolutely no survival gear — the man was probably hypothermic before he even hit the ground. But you never know…

Yesterday’s Daily Mail newspaper ran an extensive article on the Cooper investigation. The paper trumpeted that the FBI is investigating a new and significant lead in the case. I’d imagine they’re perhaps closer to finding out who Cooper really was. Perhaps old D.B. has been working out of Seattle all these years, teaching skiing or, skydiving?

Cooper’s ransom money serial numbers were recorded and published, so he couldn’t spend the cash even if he’d survived. But just think of the epic he would have had getting out of the Cascades with only his loafers and overcoat.

My fantasy has always been that some day a sweaty bug bitten bushwhacking climber would look up into the Cascadian old growth timber, and there would be Cooper’s skeleton hanging by his parachute lines, tattered hundred dollar bills spread around on the ground below. That would make a good blog post. Didn’t they have a scene like that in a movie a while back?

The Wikipedia article is good if you’re curious about the details. Note that during his crime Cooper gave his alias as D. Cooper, not “D.B.,” which was a mistake made by initial reporting at the time and subsequently resulted in the common “D.B.”


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13 Responses to “D. B. Cooper, FBI May Have Possible New Suspect”

  1. Halsted Morris August 1st, 2011 12:36 pm


    That drawing of DB Cooper sort looks ike….. 😯

  2. Halsted Morris August 1st, 2011 7:15 pm

    Oh come on, fill in the blank…

  3. Lou August 1st, 2011 7:45 pm

    Fred Beckey? 😀

  4. Dostie August 2nd, 2011 1:06 am

    I think he was smarter than all that. He managed to trick the FBI. Who’s to say he couldn’t hitch hike across the border, get on a flight from Canada to Asia, S. America or Africa and subsequently trick a few bank tellers outside the states and convert those Federal Reserve notes into something tangible elsewhere?

    OTOH – the probability of him not surviving the jump is pretty high too. My hope is he got away. My bet is he didn’t.

  5. JimBlogger August 2nd, 2011 4:23 am

    What an amazing story.

  6. Lou August 2nd, 2011 6:32 am

    Dostie, yeah, in those days you could probably get on an airplane with all that cash and manage to go undetected. Problem is that the serial numbers for the bills were known. So he probably could have used some of the money but that would have eventually allowed his general location and travels to be tracked. The only money ever recovered or detected is the money found later on the Columbia river bank. No other of the serial numbers have ever been detected, so I think the consensus is that the money was never used. It’s probably hanging in a tree, or sunk in a lake.

    This is the ONLY unsolved airline hijacking in US history, so it’s definitely a thorn in the side for the FBI who is supposed to always get their man.

    I too look at the guy as a kind of folk hero, but at this point I’d also enjoy seeing the case solved. Also can’t forget that he did endanger a plane load of people by messing around with their flight path, requiring the plane to be manually flown down low so he could jump out, etc. He also said he had a bomb, and he very well could have, though some theories say his “bomb” was road flares which he then lit when he jumped out, so he could ostensibly see his landing. What he would have had to do is throw a flare down just before he hit the ground, so it would show his landing zone, distance. Otherwise he’d be landing blind, probably in boreal forest. Even by throwing a flare down he wouldn’t have had much choice on landing area, as if he’d tried to maneuver just before landing, he would have then gone past the ground where his flare was and thus be landing in the dark again. Basically, no win. Only thing that could have successfully happened is perhaps he landed in a clearing near a road in the area, and was somehow able to hitchhike or walk undetected back to the city.

    For the sake of discussion, it’s also important to realize that Cooper had no specific idea of where he was when he jumped. It was night, raining, somewhere over the southwestern Washington backcountry. As far as I can tell from the reports, the FBI doesn’t even know exactly where he jumped out.

    From the Wiki: “Night jumpers should be made aware of the Dark Zone, when landing at night. Above 100 feet jumpers flying their canopy have a good view of the landing zone normally because of reflected ambient light/moon light. Once they get close to the ground, this ambient light source is lost, because of the low angle of reflection. The lower they get, the darker the ground looks. At about 100 feet and below it may seem that they are landing in a black hole. Suddenly it becomes very dark, and the jumper hits the ground soon after. This ground rush should be explained and anticipated for the first time night jumper.”

  7. jesusdidn'tneedfatskis August 2nd, 2011 2:26 pm

    Perhaps a reenactment is in order…a mythbusters scientific experiment

  8. Lou August 2nd, 2011 2:41 pm

    That would be the ultimate mythbusters!

  9. Drew August 2nd, 2011 7:00 pm

    Will Lou ever refer to any place in Washington more specifically than “PNW?” Can he resist mentioning bug bites, shrubs, and wet forests? Does he refer to the school Louie attends as PNWU? PNW-based Wild Snow readers want to know!

  10. Lou August 2nd, 2011 7:55 pm

    If I do, everyone whines that I’m giving away the goods! Last thing I want to do is let on where you can parachute out of an airplane with $200,000 and get away from the feebies.

  11. Mahk August 2nd, 2011 8:05 pm

    Thanx, Lou. I’ve always been fascinated by this story just like I’m fascinated by the PNW ……. errr, I mean Pacific Northwest. I understand that they have parties up there on the anniversary of that event. Yeah, he looks like people in my office or on the T on my morning commute.

  12. Nick August 2nd, 2011 9:33 pm

    Back when I lived in England a security truck driver drove off when his partner was in the bank. He disappeared with his common law wife, their kid and around a million pounds. Since the crime happened in a town with a ferry connection to Belgium it was widely assumed that he got out of the country before they could stop him. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/2684895.stm

  13. Lou August 3rd, 2011 10:31 am

    Turns out the new “lead” is pretty unlikely.


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