D. B. Cooper 49th Anniversary...did he survive?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by WOODSDEVIL, Nov 26, 2020.

  1. WOODSDEVIL

    WOODSDEVIL Member

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    This past Tuesday was the 49th Anniversary of the D.B. Cooper Skyjacking [November 24th, 1971]. Cooper bailed out of a NORTHWEST AIRLINES 727 jet airliner with $200,000.00 in Twenty-dollar bills, the equivalent of present-day $1,285,866.67 [0.67 cents?!!], setting off an incredible manhunt. To this day, this audacious crime has never been solved and it remains a mystery whether he survived the jump or not.


    We tend to focus on the criminal act, but the fact is, the backstory is more amazing. If he survived the jump/landing, this also may have been an epic test of wilderness survival skills and the WILL to survive. Some theories suggest Cooper was a military trained parachutist, and this event did occur during the Vietnam War era, so he may also have received training in SERE [Survive-Escape-Resist-Evade] skills.

    The directions given to the pilots as to flap settings and air speed also suggest knowledge of A/C operation/capabilities. We do know the U.S. government experimented with civilian jet aircraft for delivery of cargo and humans by parachute, such as by the covert CIA airline, AIR AMERICA. Since that time, sport parachutists have demonstrated that skydivers can safely exit a 727 for freefall.

    Although nothing was reported [that we know of] it is entirely possible Cooper had secreted the tools of survival upon his person. Below I shot a USGI demo knife, pocket compass, and a magnesium bar. Commonly available U.S. issue or private purchase items in 1971. easily stowed in a pocket. With these items, Cooper could've dramatically increased his chances of survival upon landing:


    Leaving the aircraft clad in business attire, Cooper would've been exposed to extremely cold temperatures. Ground temp for that date and time [8pm] was 42 degrees F, but aloft, even colder. In fact, my understanding is that Cooper made his jump from 10,000' that night. NWS states that air temp at that altitude is of 23.3 degrees Fahr. Using a wind chill calculator for a jump velocity of 122mph, I get minus -4.5 degrees temp. I am not a skydiver, but from what I can find, if the chute hade been deployed 5,000' feet, freefall would've lasted for 30 seconds. My other research indicates that skin freezes at -48 degrees in 2 to 5 minutes and there is low risk of frostbite above -10 degrees, but yes, risk of Hypothermia. Either way, this would've been one seriously cold dude once he touched ground.

    If he landed in water, I would guess his survivability was greatly diminished. Also, it was raining that night, so finding wood to build a fire would have been difficult at best. Imagine trying to manifest a warming fire fighting Hypothermia in wet clothes with cold shaking hands. Building a fire to warm himself would have been a critical necessity. We know he smoked cigarettes on the plane so he certainly had a lighter or matches. Had he been wearing thermals under his business clothing? This would have been an advantage. A magnesium bar [Doan's USGI issued to pilot/aircrew] would've worked even if wet.

    The canopy of the chute could've been made into a shelter to ward off rain and trap heat from a campfire and wrap up in for warmth. A small pocket knife, even a slipjoint, would've been handy for cutting the parachute's shroud lines to tie up the canopy, shave tinder, and other tasks. I've split small kindling with a folder, not recommended, but I am sure some of you have done it too. He also could have just gathered dead hanging branches, dryer than stuff on the ground.

    Next would have come exfil from the woods. He may have had a pocket compass, or maybe knew how to navigate by sun and stars [natural navigation]. As he left the rear air stair of the plane, he would have had a moment to glimpse light from a community or even a nearby home and a general direction to steer the parachute.

    Or maybe he didn't have to...the brotherhood of VN vets is a strong one. If he was a vet, maybe he had friends in Army aviation. Cooper mentioned "Having a grudge". Could he have been soured by the treatment of vets returning from Nam? Could he have secreted apilots strobe in a pocket? I mean, Army copter pilots were well trained. How hard would it have been for a friend to fly the 727's flight path to the approximate LZ and spot the strobe and hoist Cooper out?

    If he had to ruck out, food might not have been a factor, but hydration is, and in the Pacific Northwest, there is enough waterways, tributaries, and such to provide water. Garbage is everywhere and it is entirely possible to find a discarded can or bottle for gathering water in even the most remote areas. Personally, I think he had help and was long gone by the time law enforcement was on scene. A man in a business suit in the woods was a real stand-out.

    If he bailed and landed close to his objective, perhaps he had someone at a rallying point, posing as a hunter or camper, waiting to pick him up. Extra set of hunting clothes and a hunting rifle, bury the suit and chute, and instant alibi. He also could've dotted the jump zone with re-supply caches in advance, with weapons/ammo, food, tools, warm clothing, and other supplies to ensure his survival.

    On the other hand, we must consider he may not have survived, and his remains scattered by animals, or perhaps hanging from his chute to this day, caught in a tree, deep in the woods. Or perhaps he landed in water, couldn't free himself from the chute and drowned.

    When you think about it, it is entirely possible Cooper had the means to survive and exit the woods. Either way you look at it, it is a fascinating survival challenge to ponder!

    Happy Thanksgiving all!
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2020
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  2. Twoody88

    Twoody88 Member

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    Awesome post. Happy thanks from up north
     
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  3. WOODSDEVIL

    WOODSDEVIL Member

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    ...and to you & yours Sir!
     
  4. WOODSDEVIL

    WOODSDEVIL Member

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    Tina Mucklow: (Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 flight attendant): “Do you have a grudge against Northwest?”

    D.B. Cooper: “I don’t have a grudge against your airlines, Miss. I just have a grudge.”
     
  5. WOODSDEVIL

    WOODSDEVIL Member

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    On the tactical/planning side...Cooper chose a smart time to commit the offense. Thanksgiving was the following day, Thursday 11/25/1971. Typically, law enforcement agencies are short-staffed as employees take time off to be with family, leaving a skeleton crew. Those on duty are distracted by Holiday food in the office and not very motivated [believe me, I know]. Can't say for sure, but my guess is it would be the same with Federal agencies like the FBI.

    Cooper chose a short commuter flight [30 minutes from Portland to Seattle] instead of a cross-country flight that would've been packed with Holiday travellers. It was also a low-altitude flight and one that followed a fairly straight, point-to-point route. One suspect considered was an actual NORTHWEST employee who'd worked an overseas route, would have had access to company flight information, and likely not been familiar to the compasny's domestic flight crews.

    One of the things you have to wonder about was the extent of Cooper's planning and preparation. Did Cooper do much or was it a more or less spontaneous act? We may never know...
     
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  6. C99c

    C99c Member

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    I've enjoyed reading stuff about the crime in the past and recently listened to a couple of podcasts that mentioned the investigation, from both LE and interested civilians, throughout the decades.

    I'm honestly shocked that someone hasn't produced a movie or TV show based around a loose account of what we know. It would likely be better than most of the garbage out today.

    I don't know if the guy survived or not but I think that there's as good a chance that he did as otherwise, whether he was a soldier or not.

    You have to remember that people were generally tougher back then than today.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2020
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  7. WOODSDEVIL

    WOODSDEVIL Member

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  8. C99c

    C99c Member

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    Does that Alone show still come on?
    I want to see a D.B. Cooper Challenge. You jump out of a plane dressed like he was with only gear available then that could be concealed on yourself and with a bag of money. Say $100.

    First one to reach a predetermined location (some island somewhere, some landmark across the country, etc) without being spotted wins some sum of money.
     
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  9. Andy the Aussie

    Andy the Aussie Moderator of the Century Staff Member

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    He has his own sub-forum here you know.... @Expat
     
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  10. WOODSDEVIL

    WOODSDEVIL Member

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    That'd be pretty entertaining. When you think about it, Cooper may have checked off the Survive, Evade, and Escape initials in SERE. Whether FBI ever actually talked to their man and he "Resisted" their interrogation, we may never know ;)
     
  11. Expat

    Expat Expat™ Knives Staff Member

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    Trust me on this one....Dan Cooper survived.
     
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