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D.B. Cooper's Disappearing Act, Continued

By Patrick Mondout

This is a continuation of our story on D.B. Cooper. Part one is here.

Where is Dan Cooper Now?

Even the FBI, which has spent far more money on the case than Cooper got away with, is unsure. They get at least five serious leads on the case per year, have had 1,100 serious suspects, and have collected over 100 volumes of material on the unsolved case. People call in regularly claiming their ex-boyfriend or husband is D.B. Cooper. Such false leads are much more common when Cooper is featured on a TV show like Unsolved Mysteries.

Might he one day come forward and admit his crime? There is no statute of limitations on air piracy and while he would be a celebrity if he made himself known now, he would also still face federal charges.

In June of 2000, the family of a woman named Elsie Rodgers, who had told her family that she discovered the skull of Dan Cooper near the Columbia River while on vacation in the early 80s, came forward with the skull when they found it wrapped it a box with another bone after her death in May. The FBI used DNA evidence originally gathered from the plane (they refused to say what it was but a guess would be material on the discarded cigarettes) to compare with the bones but their scientists were unable to prove it was the skull of the skyjacker.

In August of 2000, a woman in Florida came forward and said that her late husband had told her he was Dan Cooper on his deathbed. His name was Duane Weber and he was 70 years old when he died of kidney disease in 1995.

According to a contemporary Associated Press story, the retired FBI agent who was in charge of the case during the Super70s finds the latter claim credible. Of course, the FBI would love to close a case that has embarrassed them for nearly 30 years; the case remains the only unsolved domestic skyjacking in U.S. history. Mr. Weber did somewhat somewhat resemble the FBI sketches of the suspect and he spent time in the McNeil Island prison in Steilacoom (near Seattle) in the late 60s. The FBI was unable to discount or prove the account in an investigation it conducted in 1998.

Boeing 727

Here is the actual Boeing 727 (N383N, C/N 18803/137) used in the D.B. Cooper heist in Piedmont colors at Denver's Stapleton Airport in May of 1982. Underneath and at the very back of the plane is the staircase that opens outward (toward the airport in the back) used to escape the airborne 727 that dark and stormy night in November 1971.

Image courtesy of AirNikon.

What Happened to the 727?

The actual Boeing 727-051 used by Northwest that day was delivered on April 22, 1965 and registered as N467US with the FAA (it is shown in the photo above). Some time before 1982 it was sold to Piedmont Air and re-registered as N383N. It was acquired by Key Airlines in May of 1985 as N29KA. It was then acquired by WorldCorp after Key went under in 1993. According to a former member of the Key Air Operations team: "The Cooper story was well known to us as was the fact that we owned the "Cooper" B727. Sadly, the aircraft was flown for one last time (empty) to the "scrap yard" in 1993 where it was as we say 'turned into beer cans.' My boss (VP/GM of Key at the time) still has the aircraft identification plate from its last flight."

William "Scotty" Scott, one of the two pilots aboard flight 305 died of prostate cancer on March 11, 2001.

Got Change for a Twenty, Kid?

If a man in his seventies resembling Ross Perot ever gives you a $20 bill from the Super70s, you can check the serial number yourself. A 1984 book by Richard Tosaw called "D.B. Cooper: Dead or Alive" (available from devoted about a fifth of the pages to a full listing of all 10,000 of the serial numbers of the money given to Cooper. The author even offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who finds any of the ransom money. No takers so far.

The Cult of D.B. Cooper

D.B. Cooper still has quite a following, if judged only by the continued interest in the case. Several books and a song about the skyjacking were written and in 1981, an otherwise forgettable movie about the heist starring Robert Duvall was made. Posters, t-shirts and other items were made after the heist. Seattle playwright John Orlock even wrote a play about it. A restaurant in Salt Lake City is called "D.B. Cooper's." To top it all off, the town of Ariel, Washington, which is near the spot where Cooper is believed to have jumped, has a yearly D.B. Cooper festival during Thanksgiving week (a tradition which dates all the way back to 1976). As many of 300-500 people show up each year from as far away as Japan. This temporarily multiplies the population of this town by a factor of 6 to 10!

Perhaps it's because he seems to have gotten away with it. Perhaps it's because he didn't injure any of his hostages. Perhaps it's because he disappeared off the the face of the Earth with the FBI in hot pursuit. Perhaps it's because the only visible loser was an insurance company. Whatever the reason, D.B. Cooper's cult status lives on.

Gunther, Max. D.B. Cooper. NTC/Contemporary Publishing, 1986.
Reed, J.D. The Legend of D. B. Cooper. Dell, 1983.
Rhodes, Bernie. D.B. Cooper: The Real McCoy. University of Utah Press, 1991.
Tosaw, Richard T. D.B. Cooper: Dead or Alive? Tosaw Pub Co, 1984.



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A movie called The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper was made in 1981 starring Robert Duvall, Treat Williams, Kathryn Harrold, Ed Flanders. It was as successful as the FBI's search for Cooper and is hard to find.

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