DB Cooper – What if he didn’t jump?

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.

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34 Responses to DB Cooper – What if he didn’t jump?

  1. Денис says:

    One person from our list, Richard Floyd McCoy, is still a favorite suspect among many. We tracked down and arrested McCoy for a similar airplane hijacking and escape by parachute less than five months after Cooper s flight. But McCoy was later ruled out because he didn t match the nearly identical physical descriptions of Cooper provided by two flight attendants and for other reasons.

  2. Marla says:

    Lyle admitted on a national radio show that he made up the story about Ken Christianson, only to get a Hollywood deal. Skipp Porteous bailed out as did Geoff Gray. Neither wanted anything more to do with Christianson, or Robert Blevins. Being a life-long janitor can have its downside, unless your mother has a trust and a home for you to live in when you reach 70 yo and are still out spreading manure.

  3. Condor says:

    Its an interesting idea that surfaces all the time in Cooper lore. The delay in the crew alerting ATC and the company (on separate lines) that they thought Cooper had just jumped, and the fact this information was not passed along by the FBI to Reno immediately, all accounts for the idea that Cooper might have bailed anywhere, or near Reno … see Georger’s interview of Anderson. 302s document there was doubt about what had happened when the plane landed at Reno. For all Reno knew Cooper had just bailed outside of Reno! So… Reno launched a massive ground search in Nevada – 302’s document that! Meanwhile people at NWA and in the AF are busy already developing a search map. Lesson is: The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. Its funny!

  4. Marla says:

    ….dirty hands, RMB…..lol..lol

    • Marla says:

      Did Robert Blevins get the name “toilet cleaner” because he has a janitor business, or because he edits books from his one bedroom apartment in Auburn, WA? Inquiring minds would like to know.

  5. brucesmith49 says:

    Attention Johnnie Greene, Marla, and Gypsy 23:

    Sytop all the Blevins trashing immediately, or you will all be banned from the Mountain News. I’m tired of trying to clean up the mess you create.

    – Bruce, Editor, The Mountain News-WA

    Also, using bogus emails is not proper conduct. A false email is grounds for banishment, too. Note: Johnnie.

    • Marla says:

      I sincerely apologize to you and the Mountain News for my unladylike comments about Robert Blevins. I used to visit the Drop Zone, but since Blevins uses up all the space over there, I must have released my temper here at the MN without thinking about the mental welfare of Robert Blevins. Shame on me.
      I would like to give you much credit for calling this out. Your concern for Mr. Blevin’s mental health is well-placed and you are to be applauded. As a person with a Master’s degree in psychology and mental health studies, you are better qualified to say when enough is enough on Blevins, for the sake of his mental well-being. You are a humanitarian. I’m not sure how Johnnie and Gypsy will oblige your ultimatum, but thank you for letting me have my say over the years here at the Mountain News, where educated people can speak out.

      • brucesmith49 says:

        You’re welcome, Marla. Thank you for your kind response.

      • Gypsy23 says:

        I can roll with that, Bruce. Marla is very nice, and apparently is sick and tired of Blevins, as are we all. But if Mr. Blevins’ mental decline is based partly on what is posted here at the Mountain News, then I will acquiesce with your demands. Blevins knows not how lucky he is to have your assessments. Is Johnnie onboard too?

  6. SafecrackingPLF says:

    Can’t review the upcoming History Channel doc, because I’d have to see it first.

    But, um, guys…. what’s this?

    • brucesmith49 says:

      This is a preview of the Mystery of DB Cooper documentary made by Minnow productions for the BBC and HBO over the past few years. It airs, November 24, 2020, I believe.

      Oops. That Nov. 25. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving!

  7. Joseph j Schneider says:

    New evidence shows the money found at Tina’s bar was put there later during the spring…

  8. brucesmith49 says:

    What’s the new evidence, Joseph?

    I know that a couple of months ago, Tom Kaye reported that the money found at T-Bar had been exposed to Columbia River water in the spring – perhaps 1972, or even 1974, during floods.

    • Johnnie Greene says:

      We understand that Bruce is the star of this new documentary. Can you post the promo/trailer at MN, Bruce?
      Thanks, Johnnie.

  9. brucesmith49 says:

    There are actually two NEW documentaries. Here’s what Eric posted at the DBC Forum:

    “Here is a link to a new History Channel promo spot that shows a couple of scenes from The Final Hunt for D.B. Cooper premiering Saturday, November 14th. As you can see, we have a very special guest who is part of the show.


    Note: I haven’t been able to open this trailer, yet. As for the second doc, it’s the one made by Minnow for the BBC and HBO. It airs on Nov. 25 on HBO and a trailer/review of it got posted somewhere on the MN by a guy who calls himself SafecrackerPLF, which might be the real Safecracker, but I don’t know. He doesn’t identify himself.

  10. brucesmith49 says:

    The link here at the MN to the HC doc works, but the trailers don’t tell us much. Safecracker’s review has a link posted a few posts above.

  11. Levi says:

    what happened to the cooper forum /

  12. Buffalo Rick says:

    I have considered this but though it cannot be completely ruled out it seems pretty risky of him to try this. He would almost certainly wind up where he did not want to be the most. In jail. I believe he jumped. Perhaps he left a good chute to have them believe he died in the jump? I do not think so. They would have found him and all that he had scattered. The biggest question is, did he have help on the ground? Not sure he was the type to want to share the loot? So I doubt it based on that.

  13. Jack Straw says:

    I think people need to get a life. Especially the writer.

  14. David J Johnson says:

    Bruce, Apologies not being able to contribute to this blog for some time,, but I have been very ill and had extended hospital periods.

    Both Susie and I watched the BBC4 program about D B Cooper on November 19, although we were disappointed it only majored on a few suspects. It was great to see you taking part though.

    Regarding the possibility that D B Cooper did not jump from the 727, this is something I have always wondered about, and which we have corresponded before. When the aircraft landed, he could easily mingled with other personnel on the ground and would account for the fact that no trace of him was ever found on the ground.

    To me, one of the biggest mysteries is the finding of banknotes at Tina Bar. This seems to me too much of a coincidence and has I reported to you some years back – the notes would have been in a much worse condition if they had been there since the hijacking – and that is the opinion of a ex
    -banknote printer!

    Our very best wishes to you.


    • brucesmith49 says:

      Thanks for the update, David. I trust your health is rebounding. As I have written, I strongly refute your statement that Cooper could have “easily mingled with other personnel on the ground.” There was an FBI team on the plane, and it was surrounded by a FBI security team on the ground, and 200 cops patrolled the area.

  15. Peggy Mo says:

    Is this the latest space for posting at Cook’s forum?

    Somebody tell Dave Shutter to turn the light back on at his forum! What’s the new dark format about? Depression?

  16. Mark Hinrich says:

    Regarding the possibility of Cooper either staying on board the plane until Reno or stashing the money on board… I covered this in a fictional work I wrote a few years ago.

    In my novel, I had Cooper and Tina Mucklow teaming up in order to pull off the skyjacking. It is well known how calm and cool she was under pressure, possibly more so than anyone else on board the airplane.

    What if Tina was the one who brought some of Cooper’s jump gear on board Flight 305? I put to you that she could have called Cooper from a previous stopover on the trip westward. It wouldn’t have been terribly difficult to stow some of Cooper’s gear in her carry-on bag.

    Furthermore, what if the ransom money was loaded into her carry-on and Cooper never jumped out of Flight 305 with the money? It would have made for a much safer trip to the ground.

    As for what happened to the money, I suggest that Cooper and/or Tina laundered the money in casinos; Vegas wasn’t terribly far away. By the time anyone figures out that money from the ransom had turned up in Vegas, it would have been difficult to determine exactly which single person had brought the money in to the casino.

    As a final note, I have read in various places that the carry-on bags of the crew on Flight 305 were never searched. That would have made it easier for Tina to carry the money back to Seattle and link up with Cooper.

    Just food for thought… I’m curious what people think. Marla, I’m particularly interested in your opinion.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      And she stashed her bible where, exactly?

      Have you read the lengthy profile piece on Tina that came out in Rolling Stone magazine today?

      Personally, I doubt very much that Tina was involved in your scenario. Tina has the moolah, while Danny Boy slinks off somehow in Reno? Explain that one to me, please.

  17. Frank says:

    why didn’t the crew ever walk back and take a look after the pressure oscillation and/or bump ~8:10 through 8:15pm to see if he was still there or not ? Or at least peak through curtains ? I am guessing that perhaps they were frightened and that is totally understandable given the circumstances and what was at stake.

  18. D.B.Scriv says:

    If he worked for Boeing, he would have been very familiar with the plane. Does anyone know if there is a way to get from passenger cabin to the landing gear bays, maybe via luggage compartment. He may have been able to jump as the plane was taxiing after landing.

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