By Bruce A. Smith
No one actually saw DB Cooper leave the plane, so we do not know with absolute certainty that he parachuted away. Is it possible that DB Cooper didn’t jump?
Did he crawl into a space above the lavatory or burrow his way into the cargo hold, re-appearing after the commotion in Reno dissipated, or joining the hub-bub dressed as a worker or FBI agent? Many people ask that question, so let’s explore the possibilities:First, there is no known concrete evidence to support this hypothesis, but let’s not stop just because of that.
Secondly, exactly where did he stash himself? Was it big enough for his body and all of his gear? How did he pull the panels back into place and re-secure them? People familiar with the 727, such as Don Burnworth, say he could have hidden behind a door panel. One aficionado said Cooper could have hidden in the luggage compartment beneath the passenger cabin, as the two are connected on some versions of the aircraft. Others speculate Cooper hid in the compartments above the lavatory. FBI documents state that the feds looked in all the hidey-holes and didn’t find Cooper.
But even if he escaped detection, his getaway would still be problematic. Reno was filled with cops and FBI—at least two hundred—and media swarmed the area, so the chaos was great. This perspective lends credence to the notion that Cooper could have blended into the mix and slithered away.
But it was 11 pm, rainy, and temperatures were in the 30s in Reno, so Cooper would need to be dressed for the weather to blend in. Also, if he sneaked out, how did he get away from the airport? It’s unlikely that he rented a car. Take a bus? Was he picked up by an accomplice? How would the accomplice know the pick-up was in Reno?
Or, did Cooper stay on the plane until it went to its next destination, which was Boeing Field for repairs, according to the Washington State Museum of History, or Quantico, Virginia for more forensic testing, as Geoffrey Gray claims. Either way, how did Cooper deal with the cold and de-pressurization issues? Plus, the walk-away scenario gets dicier the longer he stays with the plane.
If Cooper walked away somewhere, did he take any money with him? In what? Even more problematic is the question of how the three bundles of his money landed at Tina Bar.
How about the rest of the evidence? Did Cooper take that, too, when he escaped at Boeing, or did he leave it all on the plane in his hiding place? Was it ever discovered? If not, why not? How big is the cover-up, then? How come the bomb-sniffing dogs never discovered Cooper or the bomb? Was it because the bomb was composed of road flares and there weren’t any explosive chemicals to detect? Or did Cooper compromise their nostrils by filling the pilots’ Styrofoam dinner containers with hot sauce, ruining the canines’ sense of smell? Plus, how did Cooper stash the coveralls and work coat that he would have needed later to blend into a crowd of workers at Reno?
But there is an Out-of-the-Box idea related to the above hypotheses, only reversed.
Did DB Cooper start his day in Washington, D.C., and pre-load his gear on the East Coast? Did he stash boots and a jump suit, radios and a reliable parachute in the overhead compartments, and then depart at the next stop and take a direct flight to Portland, arriving well before 305? Then, did he re-board 305 at PDX knowing that all the stuff he needed was already in place, and had the added good fortune to arrive undetected in Portland?
As a result, Cooper would have had lots of warm clothes, the exact parachutes he wanted, free of detection devices, and radios to contact his ground crew. Maybe a thermos of hot coffee and a ham sandwich or two.