Who was D.B. Cooper?

One afternoon, a day before Thanksgiving in 1971, a guy calling himself Dan Cooper (the media mistakenly called him D.B. Cooper) boarded Northwest Airlines flight #305 in Portland bound for Seattle. He was wearing a dark suit and a black tie and was described as a business-executive type.

While in the air, he opened his brief case showing a bomb to the flight attendant and hijacked the plane. The plane landed in Seattle where he demanded 200K in cash, four parachutes and food for the crew before releasing all the passengers. With only three pilots and one flight attendant left on board, they took off from Seattle with the marked bills heading south while it was dark and lightly raining.

In the 45 minutes after takeoff, Cooper sent the flight attendant to the cockpit while donning the parachute, tied the bank bag full of twenty dollar bills to himself, lowered the rear stairs and somewhere north of Portland jumped into the night. When the plane landed with the stairs down, they found the two remaining parachutes and on the seat Cooper was sitting in, a black tie.

The above summary is from Citizen Sleuths, the website for a group of scientists and volunteers who are trying to crack the D.B. Cooper case. They are the only organization given access to the original evidence by the FBI.

It’s pretty interesting stuff, but what fascinated me was their recent study of….the black tie.

The group used electron microscopes, UV light, and x-ray spectroscopy to scan the tiny particles that had adhered to the tie. Some of the findings were not surprising. For instance, during the hijacking, D.B. Cooper was chain smoking. Analysis of the tie showed the person who owned it was a heavy smoker. It also showed minute particles from matches, meaning the owner probably did not use a lighter. D.B. Cooper used matches while on the plane.

But the most fascinating particles they found on the tie were pure titanium. Titanium is pretty common now, but back in 1971, it was not well known, and it was very expensive.

It was used mostly in commercial and military aircraft.  As a result, there was speculation that because D.B. Cooper seemed to know quite a bit about the 727, and the plane was hijacked near Boeing’s headquarters in Seattle, that maybe D.B. Cooper was connected to the aircraft industry.

And because the titanium was not heavily concentrated on the tie, it made it appear that he was not in constant contact with the machines that used titanium. But it was on a tie, and the only people who wore ties at that time were managers, so there was now reason to believe that D.B. Cooper was a manager at an aircraft-type plant.

Then came the news- pure titanium was not used in commercial aircraft or military planes of the time. They used a titanium alloy. No plane used pure titanium…………..except one, the Boeing 2707, a Super Sonic Transport (SST) plane being built to compete with the recently launched British/French Concorde.

Ah, but guess what? In May of 1971, the Federal government shut down the SST project. It was becoming too expensive and didn’t look to be viable in the long run, so thousands of people lost their jobs.

So could D.B. Cooper have been a disgruntled SST employee at Boeing or one of the related SST companies, who lost his job when the SST project was cancelled, and six months later, needing money, hijacked a plane?

It sounds like a great theory to me, and it’s a theory that the Citizen Sleuths group is pursuing.

1 Comment

  1. Glass Half Full says:

    Cool! I do love a good mystery. I visited CitizenSleuths.com and the clip-on tie has its own section…so famous! If only there was a “Big Book of Answers” to settle all my questions…this is definitely one that has been lingering for a very long time.


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