DB Cooper World loses a sleuth – remembering Bob Sailshaw

By Bruce A. Smith

Bob Sailshaw passed away early this morning. I just received an email announcement from his wife, Michele.

For those of us who knew him and interacted with him, we knew Sail as a passionate, cantankerous-but-kindly, and generous member of Cooper World. He got involved with us several years ago after reading about our investigation of Sheridan Peterson, which began in the waning days of the DZ.

Sail knew Petey, and had been his Seattle landlord for one month in 1961 until he kicked him out for non-payment of rent. Later, in 1972, the FBI came knocking, asking about Peterson – and a flood of memories came rushing back from those 30 days.

Sail felt that Sheridan Peterson is DB Cooper because of the many uncanny things Petey said and did, such as his constant scheming, trying to develop the “System that Beat the System,” a phrase that later appeared in Letter #3, further convincing Sail of his beliefs.

Sail and Pete also discussed the latter’s days as a smokejumper in Montana, and his fearlessness in jumping into wilderness areas.

But most importantly, Sail started a “Salon” of Inquiry into the DB Cooper case. Every few months or so he would host a small luncheon at the Seattle Yacht Club – where he had been the Commodore – and invite members of the SYC who were knowledgeable of the case, along with selected Cooper sleuths. That is where I met Bob Sale, a long-time FBI agent at the Seattle Division, and other FBI agents, pilots, and skydivers. It was also the occasion that I met other Cooperites, such as Vicki Wilson and her daughter.

Sail always picked up the tab – he even met me at the bus stop when I was coming up from Tacoma.

Sail also arranged for us to go on a road trip to Eagle Creek, Oregon to speak with Ralph Hatley, the iconic skydiving champion and friend of Earl Cossey. Again, Sail took us all to lunch – this time accompanied by Sail’s wife, Michele, too.

Sail was instrumental in helping me launch my DB Cooper book, and he and Michele came to one of my first book signings and public presentations. A year ago, Sail and Michele sold their house in Seattle where Petey had been a resident so-many years ago, and had just moved into a condo in a lovely nearby neighborhood, so their Seattle roots were still intact.

Michele says that Sail’s health deteriorated rapidly in November, and he spent most of December in the hospital. He was admitted into a rehab and assisted living facilities a few weeks ago, but was in hospice last week.

I will miss my friend, and I send his family many good wishes to move through this grieving time with strength and grace.


Symposium 2013, Sail and Michelle, two-shot

Bob Sailshaw and Michele at the 2013 COOPER exhibit at the Washington State Historical Museum

Symposium 2013, Sail and Michelle w DB Cooper, best

DB Cooper posing with Sail and Michele. WSHM, 2013.


Symposium 2013, Sail and sketch, dimple

Sail showing a dimple in the face of DB Cooper’s Composite B sketch. Sail claimed that Sheridan Peterson had the same dimple.

Sheridan Peterson, blue eyes, Fb, mid-life, 4. 14. 14

A Facebook post of Sheridan Peterson, with a pix circa 1970.


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32 Responses to DB Cooper World loses a sleuth – remembering Bob Sailshaw

  1. Marty Andrade says:

    Reblogged this on The Andrade Archive and commented:
    Bob believed passionately that Sheridan Peterson was DB Cooper based on the tie evidence and a possible falsified alibi. Bob also helped me in my investigation, and I enjoyed interacting with him on the Cooper Forums. RIP.

  2. I never met Bob Sailshaw, but from his many posts he seemed like a nice enough guy to me. Condolences aplenty from the staff at AB of Seattle. (Greg informed me this morning, after seeing Shutter’s post.) I never believed Peterson was the hijacker, but you had to admit Sailshaw had some fairly good arguments that pointed to Peterson.

  3. Nicky says:

    Rest In Paradise Bobby Boy

  4. RIP Bob, It sounds like was very passionate about Sheridan being Cooper. It would be nice if they try and look at him again even if wasn’t done by the FBI. A review on Amazon about your book Bruce done by Sheridan disapeared and is no longer there. Maybe he is a little bit nervous about being caught.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Sheridan was quite forthcoming and expressive on the History Channel Documentary about his status as a prime DBC suspect. But he might be nervous. Pete can get very touchy about anything these days.

  5. Hi Bruce i was looking through some DB Cooper FBI files and noticed something interesting, one of the stewerdesses looked at some pics of suspects on Dec. 2 1971 and thought a pic resembled Cooper it was photograph kkk-31. Do you know who the suspect was? The only thing I don’t like about the FBI files is that you can’t see the names. Thanks in advance if your able ton find out anything.

  6. ‘kkk 31’ sounds like a facial composite done from the FBI’s Facial Identification Catalog, not an actual picture. Just saying. An excerpt from the Geoff Gray book, pages 91-92:

    ‘To compose the sketch, Tina and Flo and Alice Hancock and other witnesses are shown the Facial Identification Catalog, the Bureau’s bible of ears (average? protruding? close set?) and noses (hooked? snub? downward tip?) and chins (cleft? dimple?) Flo likes face type KK5-1, except for the ears and hair. Alice likes KA3-9 (eyebrows, OC1-10, mouth, KE9-11; cheek and cheekbones, KJ1-1)…’

  7. Derek Godsey The Man who finally figured out who DB Cooper was says:

    BRucie you say “James Klansnic wasn’t DB Cooper”. BRucie I say James Klansnic was the real DB Cooper. I challenge you, Tom Colbert, Georger, anybody that wants to have a debate, let’s make it happen. Remember in Colberts book, Rackstraw took his kids and sister to DisneyLand? Well I found the photos of them there at DisneyLand and they are dated in November of 1971. Yes that’s the month he was supposedly couch surfing in Corvallis and Astoria. The photos are on my twitter if anybody is interested. I formatted the beginning of this in my best Bob Sailshaw impression. May he Rest In Peace, I always enjoyed his post and he seemed like a nice man. BRucie let’s make a debate happen. We could get Marla there too and perhaps Rackstraw himself to come. Nobody knew the 727 better than Klansnic. Nobody ever matched the Sketches the way he does. Nobody could speak and Read German like Klansnic. Nobody was a shot down pilot just like the comic character Dan Cooper. He is one of the few suspects with olive skin. He’s almost orange in some photos. Bruce I have spoke with you before, I could tell in your voice you were intrigued by Klansnic. Debate, let’s do it? Thanks Bruce.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      I have never claimed that James Klansnic is DB Cooper. As I have repeatedly told you, to do so is potentially libelous. What I have said is that Klansnic is a worthy suspect to investigate – the question is how to do so responsibly.

      • Derek Godsey The Man who finally figured out who DB Cooper was says:

        Their is no such thing as libelous anymore BRucie. Colbert can go on the history channel and all over the internet saying Rackstraw was Cooper while he is paying people like Daniel from Seattle PI to publish his stories and paying the Hunts 40k each. Why did the people in Astoria have to sign a

      • Derek Godsey The Man who finally figured out who DB Cooper was says:


  8. Derek I couldn’t find the pics on your twitter account. I don’t have a twitter account, so I am not sure if that’s the problem. I was able to see several things on your page though.

  9. Derek I just found the pics, the problem with them is they are very fuzzy and not clear. It reminds me of when people claim to have to have pics of bigfoot. BTW I am not sold on Rackstraw. I lean more towards McCoy being Cooper. I have been trying to find some of the things that Calaame claims that he gave the FBI on McCoy. I would be interested in finding out more info on Klansic or other suspects as well. Suspects that I don’t think are Cooper is Kenny Christianson, Barbara Dayton, Duane Weber, and LD Cooper.

    • Derek Godsey The Man who finally figured out who DB Cooper was says:

      Yea that’s brilliant leaning towards McCoy now that we have the FBI files. So your leaning toward a suspect that the stewardesses and witness said no McCoy wasn’t Cooper. You are leaning toward a suspect in McCoy that we now know the FBI has a few of the finger prints and perhaps palm prints of DB Cooper, so they never matched them against McCoys? Come on man you are smarter than that.

    • Derek Godsey The Man who finally figured out who DB Cooper was says:

      Forget about the Photos then. Look into his background. He was working on the Braking System for The Boeing SST plane when it was shutdown. He spent 13 months when he was shot down over Styer Austria in WW2. Paid his way through College by doing Electrical work. He was the Hydraulic Engineer for the Boeing 727’s and did you know the 727 was the first to use Hydraulics with its flight controls? His mother and father were from Slovenia and Austria. He was fluent in German. Isn’t it odd that some of the Dan Cooper comics were about a Brave pilot who was shot down a few times. Weinberg was from the same town in Austria as Klansnic’s parents. James Klansnic’s brother was from Cottage Grove where the weekend before the highjacking, flares were reported being seen dropped from a plane to the ground. What’s more important than that is that Klansnic’s brother worked for Weyerhaeuser and had access to all of the Weyerhaeuser land in the Pacific Northwest. He was the head of maintenance for Weyerhaeuser as well as helping with aerial photos for Weyerhaeuser. So you have all the elements that were found on the tie that match Klansnic’s work, his life experiences are almost the same as Dan Cooper in the Comics, and he matches the composites greater than any man ever has. Also I believe I have a picture of him wearing the very tie he left on the plane just minus the tie tack. This is a slam dunk and I have found a serial killer and when DNA confirms it will give me some media exposure and I will make sure the world knows James Klansnic was DB Cooper. His story needs to be told. I’ve never even read about a man like Klansnic. Can you imagine being a young handsome pilot flying a B-17 over Europe when you are suddenly shot and you have to bail out of the Bombay at 26,000 ft. You hit the ground and find an abandoned Cabin and manage to hide from the Nazis for a day and a half. They finally capture you and they are boys and soilders who have the same German blood in their veins as you do and speak the same language you can speak. You know that had to hurt. You spend 13 months in a labor camp and when you are freed you still have to pay your own way through college. You get a job at Boeing and work your way up their and you are asked to work on a project that will make history and you will be apart of it, when all of the sudden the United States Government pulls the rug right out from under you again. Whether that was what led him to pulling the highjacking off or not maybe only his son knows. I believe he had the smarts and courage and most importantly the ability to keep his mouth shut, that the CIA loves. Rackstraw got caught in everything he ever did and couldn’t hold water, the CIA would have never trusted him. James Klansnic lived until he was 94. I fully believe he was DB Cooper but even if he wasn’t he is still my favorite person of all time. A Man’s Man.

      • Derek Godsey The Man who finally figured out who DB Cooper was says:

        Forgive my grammar, I promise to buy a computer soon

  10. Derek Godsey The Man who finally figured out who DB Cooper was says:

    Doesn’t anybody have the nuts to ask the people of Astoria how much they made to collaborate that story about DeWinter? Danny and Pudgy Hunt both Made 40k a piece to talk. Debate Debate Debate let’s do it

  11. Cooper and DeWinter aren’t necessarily the same person. IMO Your pic of Rackstraw is very blurry and doesn’t prove anything. Lay out your case for Klansic being Cooper, I have not found much on the internet about him.

    • Derek Godsey The Man who finally figured out who DB Cooper was says:

      Of course they are not the same person. I figured out who DeWinter really was. He was a 5’8 drifter that was killed back in the early 2000’s and his brother finally found him by giving DNA to a cold case unit. DeWinter was French and was a homosexual . Many believe he was killed and left in a field because he was Gay. He did look some like Rackstraw, I’ve emailed the picture of him to Bruce and Colbert both.

      • Derek Godsey The Man who finally figured out who DB Cooper was says:

        Colbert must have knew this and thought he could use Rackstraw to be the drifter to make people believe he was up there around the time of the highjacking. Colbert believes I blackmailed Rackstraw into telling me who the real DB Cooper was and that Rackstraw was apart of the extraction team. James Klansnic was a good man, he would have never trusted or been around Rackstraw. Why I believe it was fate, I found Klansnic on the very day Boeing sent the memo to employees that they were laying some off and canceling the SST program. It was March 25, 2017 when I found him, and March 25, 1971 was when the Memo was sent. That still gives me chills.

  12. Derek Godsey The Man who finally figured out who DB Cooper was says:

    Bruce I apologize from getting off of the topic of Mr. Sailshaws passing. I always wanted to ask him if he knew Klansnic, because of his working at Boeing. I know he fully believed Eagle Eye Joe was Cooper, and rightfully so, he’s a darn good suspect. One thing that he will always be remembered by was his writing format. I absolutely loved it and their it no telling at the gigabytes of space he waisted because of it. It was his signature. Thanks Bruce

  13. brucesmith49 says:

    To answer your question of a dozen posts above: Colbert can talk about Rackstraw being Cooper with some degree of impunity because Airborne Bob has publicly declared that he is DB Cooper – ie: the phone interview with the NBC radio station in Los Angeles in the late 1970s.

    That said, Mr. Rackstraw is upset with Colbert touting his name as being DBC in public and has threatened to sue – which most investigators expect at some point – but Bob hasn’t done so as of this date. I do know that he is actively soliciting an attorney to take Colbert to court.

    Hence, my repeated advise AND INSISTENCE that you not state definitively your OPINION of Mr. Klansnic.

    • I don’t think that Rackstraw would have that strong of a case against Colbert, because of his past claims of being Cooper. If he did try, Colbert’s team would put him on trial during the trial. Rackstraw would have to testify under oath, and that could come back and hurt him criminaly.

  14. Derek, most people can make a circumstantial against their favorite Cooper suspect. Your opinion is just that, your opinion. If you truly believe that Klansic was Cooper then see what the FBI says about it. BTW I know that you have been in contact with Rackstraw, ask him what he thinks about Colbert’s latest evidence against him with codes to his ex army units on the Cooper letters. IMO it doesn’t prove that he was Cooper, if true it would only prove that he wrote the letters.

    • I’m not just saying this, but I promise you Kenny is a better suspect than Rackstraw. At least he was in age range, had correct skin color, and had some knowledge of the 727. Again, I say unto thee he had some knowledge of the 727. Klansnic hustled the fbi, Boeing, and everybody involved. That was his playground that day.

  15. Nicky says:

    I find it very interesting the fbi raided a drop zone racktraw probably frequented when he lived n stockton, ca the same day colbert made his press release about the military codes. The owner of the dz in ex military and was initially suspected of being cooper by skydivers. As far as Klansnic goes I believe he is Cooper and I am working with his grand nephew who is helping me further the klansnic investigation he has brought it up to his family and they are open to help me eliminate klansnic and clear the family name or if he is cooper as me and derek believe uncover the truth. Bruce I would love for you to get on a video conference with me, Kevin Klansnic, and Derek. Would you be open to that?

    • brucesmith49 says:

      Yes, I would be open to participating in a conference call with Kevin Klansnic. But first, Nicky, please tell me more about yourself. I am familiar with Derek, but not you. Thanks. email is best: brucesmith at rainierconnect dot com

      • I think a lot of folks that have suspects could learn a thing or two from Bob Sailshaw. He seemed to lack the venom that so many of the others have.

        Klansnic seems like an interesting guy. I must admit I’m not really familiar with him. I do recall, however, getting a nasty email from Mr. Godsey a couple of years ago, out of the blue. I’m not quite sure what that was about, but I don’t believe I was alone.

        Anyway, how old was Klansnic at time of the hijacking. What is his general description ( height, weight, eye color)?

      • Parrot it was a shot at Tennessee and not you. It was nothing personal and I apologize. I don’t need Kevin Klansnic anymore, I found The Visalia Ransacker and he will give me all I need. Certain people think they are going to ride Klansnic’s coattail now and slide in the door but like Agent Carr said hilariously about the fbi having long memories, nobody has the memory I have. I’ve been laughed at, ignored, and mocked, but I endured it because I know I found what we had all been looking for.

  16. Good enough, apology accepted.

    Is this the same ransacker that I was watching something about on TV the other night? They were trying to make a connection to the Golden State Killer. Until watching the other night I knew nothing of either.

    Bruce, can you delete my previous reply? I would rather not have my real name show. That was a mistake on my part. Thanks.

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