DB Cooper: Build-up to the 40th Anniversary


As the 40th Anniversary of the DB Cooper skyjacking approaches, both celebratory plans and investigatory efforts are intensifying.

DB Cooper, the famed hijacker, jumped out of his Northwest Orient airliner with $200,000 tethered to his waist the night before Thanksgiving Day in 1971.

A festival commemorating the event, known as Cooper Daze, is held annually on the Saturday following Thanksgiving Day at the Ariel Tavern, the central point in the FBI’s ground search for Cooper.  This year Cooper sleuths expect a record turn-out, fueled in part by a corresponding symposium on the skyjacking hosted by noted Cooper author Geoffrey Gray.

 At the same time, however, a number of investigatory issues are bubbling over with controversy, dispute and hard feelings.

 To begin, the recent revelations concerning ownership of the back parachutes delivered to Cooper are causing a ruckus.

 Although some say that the issue is a tempest in a teapot, the statements of Earl Cossey – long believed to be the owner of the parachutes, but now somewhat discredited with the release of long-forgotten FBI documents – cast a harsh light on the FBI’s conduct of the case and an apparent lack of diligence.  Further, Cossey’s strongly held opinion that DB Cooper was an inexperienced skydiver and most probably died in the jump due to a “no-pull” on the ripcord, seems to have influenced the Bureau’s perspective on Cooper’s skills.  Once considered a master criminal, the FBI now considers Cooper little more than an inexperienced jerk who got himself killed and wasted a lot of taxpayers’ dollars.

 According to Ayn Dietrich, the spokesperson for the FBI on DB Cooper during a November 1 interview, the case is “still open, but inactive.” 

 Due to the case’s “open status” however, Ms. Dietrich says she needs to follow new edicts from the Department of Justice and so is unable to comment substantively on investigatory matters.  Conversely though, since the case is “inactive” the Bureau is unable to allocate significant resources to it.

 Nevertheless, what about the parachute-ownership question? 

 Ms. Dietrich didn’t weigh-in on this one, and apparently Mr. Cossey has won the first round in a War of Words that has developed over the issue.

 In an effort to learn the truth of this matter the Mountain News recently contacted Mr. Cossey to ascertain who owns what, and can the second, “not-used-by DB Cooper” parachute be examined if, in fact, Mr. Cossey still has possession of it.

 However Coss, as he prefers to be called, slammed down the phone on this reporter, but not before making a prolonged statement:

 “You’re the worst guy – the worst reporter – I’ve ever had to deal with in forty years,” Coss said.  “I’m not talking with you!”

 Yet, he continued.

 “Everything you’ve written is all f*****d-up.  You say there was a square, sport parachute.  There was no square chute.  I’ve told you over and over there was no square chute.”

 Nevertheless, Mr. Cossey has steadfastly described the second, “not-used” parachute as a “sports” rig, which is often thought by casual observers to be a rectangular, or square, parachute, and steerable – making it a top-notch choice.  Cossey has long maintained that since Cooper did not choose this “Cadillac” of a parachute and instead jumped with the “beat-up VW” of an old, non-steerable, military rig known as an NB-8, Cooper was clearly not a skilled skydiver.

 “I’ve read your stuff on the Internet,” Cossey challenged.  “Are you laying a trap for me?…Or are you just trying to build-up your little newspaper?”

By contrast, the owner specified in the FBI documents, Norman Hayden, has been cooperative and a consummate gentleman.  He has invited the Mountain News and an observer to inspect the “not-used” chute, which was returned to him by the FBI several years after the skyjacking.

Mr. Cossey disputes Hayden’s claim and has done so in explicit, vulgar terms.

As this debate heats up, though, Mr. Hayden wishes to have no part of the mud-slinging that has begun, and Hayden has informed the Mountain News that he will not involve himself or his parachute in any further investigations, such as inviting the Mountain News to return and inspect the canopy that lies within his Pioneer parachute container.

In addition, Mr. Hayden will not allow his parachute rig to be examined microscopically for unique “titanium sponge” metal shards that have been recently discovered on DB Cooper’s tie by an independent group of investigators known as the Citizens Research Team (CRT).

Hayden is resolute.

“DB Cooper has been a mystery for forty years,” Mr. Hayden told the Mountain News today, “and now, I’m going to let the parachute be part of that mystery.  I’m okay with that…I know the truth of it…I don’t want my name in print, associated with what is being said about me…I’ve never had to experience that kind of thing in my life, before.”

A report on the initial interview with Mr. Hayden and the examination of his parachute can be found on the Mountain News.  (See DB Cooper stories).

Nevertheless, the citizen sleuths have found some remarkable new evidence.

The CRT was originally founded in 2007 by the then-Cooper case officer, FBI Special Agent Larry Carr.  This small crew, headed by archeologist Tom Kaye, was allowed by Carr to have unprecedented access to the Cooper evidence. 

Further, current Cooper case agent, Curtis Eng, has also authorized the citizen sleuths additional access, and the CRT released its findings in October, 2011.


The titanium sponge that has been found is a “rare” substance and Kaye says that in 1971 only a handful of metal-working shops would handle such a pure form of titanium.  Thus the number of individuals who would have shards of it on their tie would be relatively few.

Kaye had told some investigators that he would like to take metallurgical samples from Mr. Hayden’s rig, but inexplicably Mr. Kaye did not respond to email invitations from the Mountain News prior to Mr. Hayden’s announcement, today.  Now, the prospect of obtaining any evidentiary samples seems remote.

Mr. Kaye had suggested that he would be able to gather samples at the upcoming DB Cooper symposium in Portland prior to the Ariel festival. 

The symposium is touched beyond Hayden’s rebuff by the parachute controversy .

The symposium is being organized by author and Cooper investigatory Geoffrey Gray, whose recent book, Skyjack – The Hunt for DB Cooper, has offered new information on the case, including the fact that Norman Hayden is the owner of the back parachutes, a news item that stunned nearly every private investigator associated with the Cooper story.

In addition, Gray had access to the FBI files on the parachute and Hayden’s ownership, some of which he downloaded to his web site.  This site was scrubbed, though, when the ability of private investigators to access these files became known on the Internet, particularly on the popular Cooper forum at the DropZone skydiving web site.

http://www.dropzone.com/cgi-bin/forum/gforum.cgi?do=post_view_flat;post=3110098;page=1113;sb=post_latest_reply;so=ASC;mh=25; (page 1113,Oct. 18, 2011,8:23 am.)

And Geoffrey’s site:  http://huntfordbcooper.com/ and http://myprojectstatus.net/skyjack/

As for the DB Cooper symposium, it is scheduled to take place all-day Saturday in Portland’s Hilton Hotel on November, November 26.  To learn more, visit Mr. Gray’s web site:  http://huntfordbcooper.com/join-the-hunt.

Two of the speakers will be South Hill residents Ron and Pat Forman, whose friend and fellow-pilot Barb Dayton confessed to being DB Cooper.  After her death in 2002 from pulmonary disease, the Formans wrote about her alleged exploits in their 2008 book:  The Legend of DB Cooper – Death by Natural Causes.

Another topic of great interest will be a possible report from one witness who has come forward after forty years of silence to describe what has been dubbed, “The Fiery Object” phenomena.  She, and at least one other, have told investigators that they saw a low-flying jetliner soar over their home in Vancouver, Washington shortly after 8 pm on the night of the skyjacking, and observed a glowing red – possibly burning – object fall away from the aircraft and arc towards the Columbia River and Tina’s Bar.

However, one principal to the Cooper case may not be there – Earl Cossey. Geoffrey Gray, despite all of his contacts does not have Coss’ phone number or know of his whereabouts apparently, so Geoff asked me to invite Cossey to the symposium.  I have deferred; but I did give Geoff the phone number.

If you would like to do more than just read about DB Cooper gossip – and fact – on the Mountain News, you can attend the symposium rather inexpensively.  Participation is not exactly free – donations are requested – but rooms at the Hilton go for $79 a night if you mention the symposium.

In addition, the Friday night before the symposium will feature a welcoming party for all the Cooper enthusiasts who gather.

After the symposium, DB Cooper aficionados will head 39 miles north to the Ariel Tavern in Ariel, Washington, where the 40th Annual Cooper Daze festival will be in full swing.

Ariel, WA – along with its notable pub – was the center of the FBI’s ground search for DB Cooper in the days and months after the skyjacking.  DB Cooper is believed to have bailed out of NWO’s Flight 305 in the skies above Ariel at 8:12 pm on his fateful night.  However, not a trace of DB Cooper has ever been found – not his back parachute or the reserve, not the bomb and the brief case it was in, or the bag of money with $200,000 in twenties inside – and certainly not his body.

However, a bundle of $5,800 was found over eight years later under a few inches of sand on a Columbia River beach, at a site known as Tina’s Bar.  It is the only verifiable physical evidence discovered after the skyjacking and how the money got to Tina’s Bar is brimming with conundrum.  The river that flows from Ariel joins the Columbia six-miles downstream from Tina’s Bar, and as a result the question of how the loot arrived at the beach is as big a mystery as who DB Cooper is – or was.

Despite the dearth of evidence- or perhaps because of it – DB Cooper and his exploits are celebrated in the yearly beer-bash at the Ariel Tavern.  It is a large place with a huge gathering, replete with good food, music, and drunken revelers, along with DB Cooper look-alikes in black suit and tie or sporting an NB 8 parachute on their back.

Sadly, Norman and his real DB Cooper parachute will not be there to show the faithful what a genuine Cooper artifact really looks like.


©  2011  The Mountain News – WA

This entry was posted in Culture, DB Cooper. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to DB Cooper: Build-up to the 40th Anniversary

  1. Pat Forman says:

    Thank you for continuing to investigate the D. B. Cooper case. We appreciate your fairness in reporting all theories and treating all with respect.

    Most likely the Cooper case will never be solved. It seems that all of that is left of the evidence is a tie and the found money. The tie was out of style for several years before the skyjacking in 1971, so could have very easily come from the Goodwill as our suspect told us. That could mean that there is nothing on the tie of any value to solving the case. The money could have been partially deteriorated at another site before being buried on Tena Bar, leaving the exact timing of it’s placement there up in the air. It is sad to see so much hostility being displayed by those looking for answers. Our suspect has many very compelling reasons for considering her as a probable Cooper suspect, but many others have compelling reasons for believing their suspects are the real skyjacker. I hope those particiating in the symposium will remain open minded and treat each other with respect. I sincerely hope Coss does not grace us with his presence at the symposium if he can’t remain civil.

  2. hangdiver says:

    Hi Bruce, hangdiver here…I think you have found and stirred up more new info on Cooper than most others put together.
    I rarely agree with Blevins…but…can you get a recording device for your interviews??? I know I suck at taking notes, especially about stuff I know little about.
    With that being said I don’t think it was you personally that pissed Cossey off…I’ve told you before that those Riggers can be a pissy lot. The work is tedious, the pay is bad and you’re working while others are jumping having fun…I’ve known some Riggers and was in training to be one but didn’t complete my training.
    Yeah…Cossey said it was a sport rig and probably steerable because it may be steerable and you have to agree Hayden used it for “Sport Flying”. All parachutes are steerable by one means or another but that one was by no means a “Cadillac”… It may have been a better reserve for Hayden but not necessarily for Cooper…and…Hayden’s back pack parachute would be considered a “Reserve” by the FAA not a “Sport Rig”…I could give you the FAA’s definitions but most don’t make sense to any of us jumpers let alone someone with little or no experience with Skydiving.
    If I make it up for the 40th I will make it a point to introduce myself to you.


    • brucesmith49 says:

      Thanks, Hangdiver, for your kind words.

      About tape recorders – I find them to be a blessing and a curse. They stiffen and distort most interviews, especially with folks not used to the public light. Also, many of my interviews take place over the phone, so that means I need a new phone set up. Sigh, more expense.

      But the bigget problem is managing the data. It takes hours and hours to transcribe the tapes. Yes, I could forego that, and just use the tapes as back-ups to listen to as I double-check my regular notes.

      I’ll probably go that route.

  3. Richard D. Thurston says:

    Interesting speculation, but non-relevent. The titanium sponge found on his tie is not really “rare” as you describe, but it might provide a clue as to Cooper’s occupation. Lots of aerospace and electronics companies in the Northwest were working with titanuim in 1970. Looking for it on the parachute is not very intelligent, however The titanium would have come from his work or home and would not have been in the chute since Cooper didn’t pack it. – doh. The fact that Cooper chose a military chute over a sports model would indicate that he may have been more likely to be a military paratrooper or a smokejumper than a sports parachutist. He would go with the model he was most familiar with. Smokejumpers prior to 1970 mostl;y used military parachutes.

    From the beginning, i have been convinced that Cooper survived his jump but lost the money on the way down. It is the only explanation that accounts for all the known facts. In all probablilty, he buried the chute and staggered out of the woods, battered and bleeding and said something to the effect of, “I’m never going to do something that stupid again.” Right now he is probably ina nursing home somewhere babbling about it in his sleep.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Hi Dick,

      Tom Kaye says that Ti sponge is rare and you say not. So, what’s the story? Please tell us what you know.

      Kaye says that titanium is found in four different forms, and the sponge version is not readily found in aerospace or military productions shops as they use a titanium alloy for their aircraft.

      I’m not sure what kinds of application Ti sponge is used for, but Kay says that something like only 6 labs used it commercially in 1971, with Oremet in Portland being one of them.

      The bigger question is, what is the FBI doing about this lead or what have they done?

      Hence, I need to call Oremet.


      PS: From their web site:

      Company History:

      Oregon Metallurgical Company, known as Oremet, is one of only two companies in the United States that produce titanium sponge, the pure form of the rare metal used to produce titanium alloys for use in manufacturing. The company also forges titanium products for aerospace, medical, electronics, and other applications. Although nearly half of the company’s sales in 1996 were for commercial or military aerospace applications, Oremet also was the leading provider of titanium for use in the manufacture of golf clubs, which accounted for 20 percent of sales. The Albany, Oregon-based company operates titanium metals service centers in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada through Titanium Industries, Inc., an 80 percent-owned subsidiary. The only other U.S. producer of titanium sponge is Denver-based Titanium Metals Corporation, the industry leader.

      • Richard D. Thurston says:

        I guess that depends on your definition of the word “rare.” Titanium is the sixth most common element in the Earth’s crust. It is “rare” only in the sense that it is difficult and relatively expensive to extract. Whether the sponge form was widely used in 1971, I do not know, it is very widely used today. My main point was that it would be futile to look for it on the parachute. If Cooper worked with titanium on the job and thereby got some on his tie, It would not readily transfer to the parachute that he did not use. The only time you would expect to find traces of the titanium sponge on the parachute woiuld be if Cooper had packed it at his work place or home shop. But we know that Cooper did not pack either parachute, so it is extremely unlikely to be on them.

        But the presence of titanium sponge on his tie could well be a useful clue. Doing a search on people who worked at facilities using Titanium, combined with a background in military and/or smokejumper parachuting experience could be useful. The fact that he picked the old military parachute instead of the newer and better sports model indicates to me that he was more familiar with the militray model. I know if I were chosing a rifle to commit a crime and was asked to choose between an obsolete M1 Garand and a brand new and better M-4 SAWS, I would take the Garand because I know how to shoot it but have never fired the SAWS.


  4. Terry says:

    Ariel is a cool event and fun for drinkers and theorists, but it hardly speaks to any real application to the DB Cooper story. Cooper didn’t come close to landing near Ariel. That’s a fiction, perpetuated through marketing. No wonder the D.B. Cooper case is unsolved after 40 years. You turkeys keep lookin in the wrong place. Gobble-gobble.

  5. Richard D. Thurston says:

    Let’s dig in Terry’s back yard. He seems pretty sure of himself.

  6. george says:

    let’s dig in the backyard of this person named Robert Blevins. he wants us to think he knows everything about DB Cooper and everything else in the universe. he sure seems to give Bruce Smith a lot of advice as how to approach people and write stories. if we could dig a hole in Blevins backyard and fill it with Blevin’s shit, we’d soon know that the hole was never large enough to accomodate Blevins shit. sorry i had to cuss here, bruce, because i really respect your news site. Blevins on the otherhand is so far below reproach, that you couldn’t dig a hole deep enough. blevins is a clown, with a pencil neck and a mouth that only gayla could stick something in. we all hate blevins at the dz. he’s a moron of the highest degree.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Now, George, let’s be nice. As my mother used to say, “If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything.” (smile).

      As we know, on some days and with some people that is very difficult to do.

      Going to Ariel? If so, say “Hello.”

  7. george says:


    I guess your mother didn’t know Blevins. :):):)


  8. Sandi Q. says:

    aaaahhhhaaaaa!!!! Best three posts of the week, above.

  9. Dick thurston says:

    I’ll bet George never met Will Rogers. 🙂

  10. LARRY JOSEPH says:

    An older gentleman living in Spring Texas,near Houston. has written a song about D.B.Cooper that was just released to radio last month.There is a CD release party scheduled for this week in Tomball Texas, also near Houston. there is rumor in the law enforcment community that an arrest will be effected on the night of the previously mentioned CD release event.there in Tomball at the “MAIN STREET CROSSING ” RESTAURANT AND MUSIC CLUB.My info comes from reliable sources in the local police and federal agencies.It is also said that the actual note passed to the stewardess that night is in the possession of this songwriter and will be on display at the event.
    i will be in attendance., partly because there will be a portion of the procedes donated to the “WOUNDED WARRIORS PROJECT” AND ALSO CAUSE I WANT TO SEE IF THIS GUY IS REALLY D.B. COOPER !!!

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