DB Cooper – Top Ten Questions for the FBI

by Bruce A. Smith

In the past six months, there has been flurry of interest in the DB Cooper case from TV producers and documentarians. Some Cooper researchers are reporting up to six different outfits from the United States and the UK developing some kind of DB Cooper show, and I think the essential question to ask is: What will be the role of the FBI in these shows, and will they answer any lingering questions about the investigation? 

Simply, is the FBI conducting a cover-up of the DB Cooper case? If not, when will they explain the many inconsistencies and mysteries their investigations have produced.

Here is my list of the Top Ten Questions to ask the FBI regarding DB Cooper.


1. Cigarette Butts

Eight Raleigh cigarette butts were recovered from DB Cooper’s plane, but are now reported missing.

– So, where are they?
– If lost, is anyone looking for them?
– Were they used for DNA analysis, as alleged by author Pat Forman in a NBC-News broadcast
– If so, where is the paper-work?


2. Ground Search

DB Cooper hijacked his airplane on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 1971. He jumped out of his aircraft at approximately 8:15 that evening, and skydiving experts say he would have been on the ground by 8:30 pm at the latest. However, no one went looking for him until the next day, giving DB Cooper an 11-hour headstart over his pursuers. Ironically, no FBI agents actually went out into the woods looking for DB Cooper.

– So, why was the initial ground search out-sourced to local Sheriff Departments, specifically the Clark Country Sheriff’s Department and Cowlitz County SD?

-Why weren’t there check-points and road-blocks established once the Landing Zone was determined by airline officials, understood to be approximately 11 pm, November 24, 1971?

-Why was the ground search called off on Monday, November 29, 1971?

-Why did Seattle FO tell FBI DC that there was too much snow on the ground to continue, when there was no snow reported in the LZ by the Sheriff’s officials.


3. Clip-on Tie

DB Cooper was reported to have worn a black clip-on tie, which he reportedly left on the seat next to him.

– Why did it the clip-on tie enter the Seattle evidence cache four days after the hijacking?

-Where was it for that time?

-Was the chain of custody broken?


4. Reno, fingerprints

DB Cooper’s plane, Northwest Orient 305, landed in Reno, Nevada for refueling approximately four hours after leaving Sea-Tac on the hijacker’s getaway flight. He presumably jumped from the plane long before it touched down at Reno, but waiting for the plane were 200 law enforcement officials, including a bevy of FBI agents from the Las Vegas office. In Reno, the plane was searched for evidence.

– Who conducted the fingerprint search aboard 305 on November 24, 1971

-What was obtained in that search? Were the prints recovered deemed “to be of no use,” as reported by author Bernie Rhodes?

-Why weren’t the “In-flight” magazines gathered into evidence?


5. Reno, duties of FBI agents

The memories of Las Vegas-based special agents on the evidence retrieval duties are in conflict with each other, and Bernie Rhodes writes that they seemed to be “victims of some strange post-hypnotic suggestion.”

– What happened?

– Other agents, such as Tom Dempsey, were unable to tell SLC SAC Russ Calame what duties they performed that night. How come?

-Did MKULTRA play a part in Norjak?


6. SOG and 727s

Special Operations Group (SOG) soldiers were a highly trained group of covert operatives who fought “across the fence,” in the Vietnam War, meaning that they engaged the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops outside of the boundaries of Vietnam, such as in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. Many SOG troopers believe that DB Cooper was one of their guys.

– What was the nature of the FBI’s  investigation of SOG troopers regarding Norjak?

– What was the role of 727s in the Vietnam War?

– Were they used to deploy soldiers into combat?

– Did any units utilize techniques similar to those of DB Cooper, ie: jumping from a 727?


7. Money retrieval at Tina Bar

$5,800 of Cooper’s ransom money was discovered in 1980 at a beach on the Columbia River known as Tina Bar. Later, the FBI says that they recovered numerous “shards of money fragments scattered in the sand.

– How many shards of money were found at Tina Bar?

– Where are they, currently?

– Did the FBI find part of DB Cooper’s briefcase at Tina Bar, as reported by PIO Dorwin Schreuder?

– Why was the money found in a highly compressed state?

– What kinds of follow-up were done along the Columbia River, ie: fishermen interviewed, other sites dug-up, etc.?


8. Richard McCoy

A Provo, Utah man, named Richard McCoy, hijacked a United flight and escaped with $500,000. McCoy was widely thought by the FBI to be DB Cooper doing a second skyjacking, and was captured by the Salt Lake City office of the FBI in mid-April 1972. McCoy was sentenced to 45 years prison, and after an escape from federal custody was later killed during a gun battle with FBI agents in Virginia Beach. During the investigation of his April hijacking, many anomalies were discovered about McCoy. Chief among them was:

– What was he doing in Las Vegas on November 24, 1971, when DB Cooper was stealing his airplane?


9. Radar findings

When DB Cooper was on his getaway flight, his plane was tracked by numerous pieces of radar equipment, both on the ground and in the air. However, no public records of these findings has ever been released.

– What did SAGE radar do the night of November 24, 1971.

– Did the F-106s following Flight 305 have any radar findings of Cooper or his jump? If not, why not?


10. Earl Cossey

Earl Cossey was a mysterious character in the Norjak investigation. He was certainly a skydiving expert who consulted widely with the FBI, and ” Coss” was found murdered in his Woodinville home on April 26, 2013

– What was the role of Earl Cossey in the Norjak investigation?

– Did he own the “back” parachutes delivered to the hijacker?

– Did Cossey influence the FBI’s perspective that Cooper was an inexperienced skydiver?

– Why was Cossey murdered?

Note: Bruce A. Smith is the author of DB Cooper and the FBI – A Case Study of America’s Only Unsolved Skyjacking.

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11 Responses to DB Cooper – Top Ten Questions for the FBI

  1. Mike Hull says:

    I’m just curious are there actually any specific FBI agents still assigned to this case or is this case no longer active?

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Special Agent Curtis Eng is the current case agent for “Norjak,” the FBI’s official name for the DB Cooper skyjacking.

      The FBI’s Public Information Officer (PIO), Ayn Dietrich-Williams, has said that the case is still open, but currently “inactive.”

  2. rthurs666 says:

    I have addressed the radar findings previously. I served at 25 NORAD Division from 1967-70 and was familiar with the process. SAGE radars are designed to track aircraft and missiles, large metal objects traveling at high speeds and high altitudes. They would have, and did, track the 727, but not an object as small as a man in a parachute unless the parachute pack contained a special responder. Bear in mind that the radar (and there may have been several) tracks in terms of sweeps so it may actually contact the “blip” only 5-6 times per minute. The SAGE computer system records these blips and combines them into a “track” which appears on the operator’s screen at McChord as a straight line, but it is actually a series of blips very close together. It would not record a 200-300 pound non metallic object falling from the plane nor would it detect it after it separated from the aircraft.

    As for the F-106 or any other chase planes, it would record the aircraft on its targeting radar as a single blip. Again, it is not sensitive enough to notice a man-size non-metallic object separating from the plane. Such an object would be lost in the background clutter. The only thing the F-106 would notice is if the 727 crashed or made a significant change in speed, altitude or heading.

    As for Vietnam operations, Dropping of clandestine units behind enemy lines was done by helicopters, C-130’s, C-123’s, C-12’s or other, smaller, cargo aircraft. The 727 would not be suitable for such operations and AFAIK, was never used for such purposes. It flies too high and too fast for precision airdrops.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Thanks, Richard; very concise description of the radar systems. But, I think the bigger question is how were the radar systems used in the DB Cooper case, and what documentation exists that the public can review.

      AS for the 727s flying to high and too fast for a combat drop – that is EXACTLY the point of discussing the relationship between what DB Cooper knew about jumping from a 727 and what was being practiced in Vietnam.

      Cooper clearly knew how to best exit from a 727, and the question is how did he learn that and where? Vietnam? Covert Ops? Boeing?

      Specifically – where were the 727s flying at 10,000 feet, unpressurized, wheels down and locked, aft stairs deployed, flaps at 15 and speed no higher than 205 mph?

      If not Vietnam, then where? It had to be somewhere since Boeing spent a lot of time and money developing the metrics on a 727 drop, and the covert capabilities were presumably a selling point for Boeing.

      BTW, what is AFAIK?

  3. rthurs666 says:

    And as for the status of the FBI investigation, IMNSHO, the FBI probably regards it as a “cold case” and not worth spending time and money to investigate. Cooper is probably dead, the statute of limitations has expired and the money is almost certainly lost. At this time, investigation is only of historical interest – on a level of interest of the Garfield and McKinley assassinations. As a private citizen with a remote connection to the case, I am still interested, but it has very little relevance to an overtaxed law enforcement agency.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      I disagree with you completely.

      To say that the FBI considers the DB Cooper case “not worth spending time and money” means you haven’t been paying close attention to what is going on.

      Remember Marla? – The “most promising suspect” announcement by the Seattle FO? – The appearance of Al Di? – The formation of the Citizen Sleuth team? – The revelations of Larry Carr? – The unveiling of Cossey’s deceits? – The discovery of titanium on the clip-on tie? – The findings of open source sleuths, such as yours truly???

      Richard, at the risk of sounding smug and smarmy, have you read my book?

  4. Bob Sailshaw says:

    Another question for the Seattle FBI is what are they doing with the information I gave them in January 2016 about the FLAW in the phony alibi of Sheridan Peterson that he was delivering one of his two children, born in Nepal at the same time as Norjak as the Female Doctor required all Fathers to deliver their own children. The FLAW was that both of his children born in Nepal were not born in the same year as Norjak per public records from porsopo.com. The son was born in 1970 and the daughter “Ginger” was born in 1972 while Norjak was in 1971.
    This blows the case wide open as it shows Sheridan lied to the FBI (a Federal crime with jail time) and the FBI could trade no jail time for the rest of the DB Cooper story. So, what is happening with this new information and clue that Sheridan is DB Cooper? Why else would he lie about his where about during Norjak? Because he is Cooper and the CASE IS SOLVED.

  5. Well, Bruce asks some good questions, although I think the SOG angle is probably a dead end. Reason I believe this is because if Cooper were that highly trained and had that much experience, he would have come better-dressed for the occasion. Boots at least…and not a cheap suit with outdated lapels. But that’s just an opinion.

    I have two questions of my own for the FBI, both of which I will be asking publicly very soon. Both questions are based on evidence I have either received from others, or researched on my own. In the case of ‘received from others,’ I also researched that information quite heavily. Now I am ready to ask the questions below:

    1) Yes, I believe it’s POSSIBLE that Ken Christiansen was Cooper. Not for certain, just possible. And along the road of the investigation into good old Kenny, the alleged accomplice’s niece (Bernie Geestman of Port Angeles’ niece) came forward. She claims that she walked in on Kenny shortly before the hijacking while he was working in a shed out back of the Geestman place in Bonney Lake. And that when she did, (she was 13 at the time) she saw Kenny taking filled quarter coin rolls and using red electrical tape to secure them end–to-end in twos. And…that Kenny had several pieces of cut wires laying next to them. I don’t want to burden your readers here with all the details, but I will explain all of that soon. Then recently…I took still shots from a video taken at the Ariel Store by Clyde Lewis. In the video, a local shows Clyde Lewis a notebook formerly owned by the Cowlitz County sheriff, where the sheriff kept notes on the day of…and after…the hijacking. One of the entries clearly shows that the FBI told the sheriff that the alleged bomb was a ‘stick(s) wrapped in red plastic’. Since the niece’s testimony came BEFORE the video, we’re going to ask whether this statement in the notebook is true, because it does lend credence to the niece’s testimony. It is almost beyond the realm of coincidence. The long and short of it is that the Clyde Lewis video came AFTER the niece’s claim, and that this entry in the notebook basically matches what SHE said previously. How is that possible unless she’s telling the truth?

    2) The second question has to do with a witness who came forward to me last August. We refer to him as ‘Troy B’. Troy is a civilian worker with the US Navy in the Washington, DC area and holds a security clearance. The short version of his story: He claims that he and his two friends witnessed a senior FBI agent confirming two things. First, that the reason the FBI closed the Cooper case was because they knew who the hijacker was now, and that he was dead. Second, that the hijacker was Ken Christiansen. ‘Troy B’ gives full details as well, i.e. names of his friends, the circumstances under which the agent said these things, and the names and backgrounds and contact info on his two friends. So…we’re going to ‘call out’ the FBI on whether this is all true, or whether the agent was merely giving his opinion. ‘Troy B’ also names the agent, although he has admitted he regrets giving us his testimony, due to objections from his wife. But after much soul-searching, I decided that if ‘Troy B’ made the decision to come forward so extensively, that his testimony is so important to the case that it cannot be ignored and must be made public.

    I will be going public with these things, and other items, on November 22, 2016.

    • rthurs666 says:

      I finally got around to watching “DB Cooper – Case Closed?” the other night. I was disappointed in that there was not even a fragment of real evidence linking Rackstraw with Cooper or with the mysterious “Swiss Baron.” Yes, Rackstraw has a physical resemblance to Cooper, but so do thousands of other men. Yes, he had the qualifications to carry out the act, in fact he is TOO well qualified to make as many blunders as Cooper did in the technical area. The FBI made the right decision to close the case. It’s been 45 years, nobody died (except maybe Cooper) and the lessons learned have been analyzed. Spending more government money at this point is just futile.

      At this point, the witnesses who have been identified are mostly elderly or were small children at the time of the incident. I am afraid that, except for people like us who love mysteries, there is nothing practical that can be done to resolve the situation unless somebody finds the money, the parachute or Cooper’s body.

  6. rthus66 says in part: ‘I finally got around to watching “DB Cooper – Case Closed?” the other night. I was disappointed in that there was not even a fragment of real evidence linking Rackstraw with Cooper or with the mysterious “Swiss Baron.” Yes, Rackstraw has a physical resemblance to Cooper, but so do thousands of other men…’

    That’s for sure. But the real knock on Rackstraw is that he was 27 years old at the time of the hijacking, when virtually every witness down to the ticket agent described Cooper as mid-40’s or better. It’s a real problem. 🙂

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