A commentary on the resurgent investigation into America’s only unsolved skyjacking
Perhaps one of the biggest crime mysteries to involve the lands of the Mountain News is the DB Cooper skyjacking case. It may also be one of the most obscure for many of our readers since Cooper’s hijacking of a Northwest Orient airliner enroute to Sea-Tac Airport from Portland, Oregon occurred almost forty years ago – November 24, 1971 – which is long before the birth many of the folks who live in the shadow of the Mountain.
Nevertheless, The Mountain News is actively pursuing this case because it is filled with intriguing elements: who was DB Cooper, where did the skyjacking take place and how did it involve residents of the Mountain News area, and ultimately, why can’t the FBI find Cooper?
Further, it is a cultural piece, reminding us of how life was four decades ago. Many have powerful memories of the incident, such as those voiced by Bethel School Board Director Marianne Lincoln, who was 14 years-old when the skyjacking happened. Ms. Lincoln vividly recalls listening on her father’s VHF radio in their Shady Acres Airport hanger to the radio transmissions between the skyjacked aircraft and Sea-Tac tower, and now her memories cast doubts on the FBI’s version of events.
Other locals, such as Thun Field pilots Ron and Pat Forman, have an exciting Cooper tale to tell: one of their aviation buddies confessed to being DB Cooper in 1978. The Forman’s have written a book about the friend, Barb Dayton, and her amazing claim – and her extraordinary life – as she was the first person to have a sex-change operation in Washington state. Dayton claimed that she reverted to her male persona to do the crime, and complete details of their story will be shared in the posts to follow.
Another local, Thun Field Director Bruce Thun, has clear memories of how the FBI swarmed his airport in the days after Cooper jumped, and he wonders if his colorful father, John, was on the FBI’s list of suspects.
As a result of these connections, the story of DB Cooper is part our story and thus joins all those of history that have occurred in the shadow of Mount Rainier, if I may modify a phrase from Graham historian and author Andy Anderson’s notable book our of area, “In the Shadow of the Mountain.”