By Bruce A. Smith
The 50th Anniversary of DB Cooper’s historic skyjacking will be celebrated November 19-21 – the weekend before Thanksgiving – in Vancouver, WA, promoter and preeminent researcher Eric Ulis announced last week. The event will be held at the Kiggins Theater, which was the site of the 2019 CooperCon, the last one held before the Covid pandemic.
CooperCon 2021 will consist of an initial social on Friday night, Nov. 19, while Saturday and Sunday will feature presentations and panel discussions from research experts, members of the crew, and retired FBI agents who worked the case. The DB Cooper hijacking occurred November 24, 1971 and commenced in Portland (Oregon) International Airport. It has never been solved, and the FBI officially closed the case in August 2016. Nevertheless, private researchers and citizens sleuths have continued the Hunt for DB Cooper.
Highlights of the conference will include an appearance by 2nd Officer Bill Rataczak, the individual actually flying the plane when DB Cooper jumped off the aft stairway, never to be seen again. Joining Mr. Rataczak will be Catherine Scott, the daughter of Captain William “Scotty” Scott, the Pilot-in-Charge of Cooper’s getaway craft, Flight 305, now-deceased. Ms. Scott will join Mr. Rataczak in helping determine the flight path and location Flight 305.
In addition, retired FBI agent Mary Jean Fryrar will discuss her investigation of Sheridan Peterson, one of the top suspects in this case.
One of the foremost researchers of Norjak, as the DB Cooper case is officially known, Tom Kaye, will have a treasure trove of information to share. Kaye has been the chief of the Citizen Sleuths, the FBI auxiliary for Norjak, since 2009, and has brought to light the titanium and rare earth minerals found on the tie Cooper left behind, along with discovering springtime diatoms on some of the ransom money recovered from Tina Bar in 1980.
The fellow who actually found the money, Brian Ingram, will be in attendance to give us a personal perspective on this critical piece of evidence, especially the state of the rubber bands upon initial discovery.
The Cooperite who shared his “Cooper Twenty” with Kaye, Mark Metzler, will be presenting his latest information on the issue of the parachutes and the survivability of the jump, which occurred at night, in a chilly November rainstorm.
Further, Marty Andrade, author of Finding DB Cooper – Chasing the Last Lead in America’s Only Unsolved Skyjacking, will be discussing his original findings of the survivability in parachute jumps by inexperienced pilots, such as the bomber crews of World War II.
Also, publisher Vern Jones will be delivering his analysis of the Cooper confession from Walter Reca. Several years ago, Jones published DB Cooper and Me, an account of Reca’s exploits by author Carl Laurin, who died earlier this year. Hopefully we will have an update from Jones on the lingering questions surrounding Reca’s appearance in the woods of Cle Elum, WA on the night of the skyjacking. If Reca was not DB Cooper, then what was he doing walking in the rain of this sleepy logging town, dressed in a dark business suit and toting a large black bundle?
Another individual bearing witness to Cooper Lore will be Marla Wynn Cooper, the niece of Lynn Doyle Cooper, who was a major suspect in Norjak for many years. Allegedly, the FBI closed the case in 2016 after they concluded the fingerprints they had collected from Uncle LD did not match those recovered from Flight 305.
Concerning the fingerprint issue, Bruce A. Smith, author of DB Cooper and the FBI, will be delivering an overview of the entire issue – how many prints were collected, what types, from where on the plane – and just as important – who collected them? The inconsistencies and mysteries surrounding this seemingly simple issue are many, and recent FBI disclosures and documents are confounding.
Other FBI agents and crew members are being invited to attend, such as Larry Carr and Tina Mucklow. Also, the Air Traffic Controller handling Flight 305 when Cooper jumped, Cliff Ammerman, is invited and expected to attend the conference.
CooperCon21 is being organized by Eric Ulis, who appeared in the 2020 History Channel documentary on Cooper, titled: “The Final Hunt for DB Cooper.” In addition, the Master of Ceremonies for CooperCon21 will be Darren Schaefer, the noted host of “The Cooper Vortex,” the premier podcast of all things Norjak.
As many of the principals involved in Norjak have passed away due to age, this event promises to be an historic, one-of-a-kind gathering and will be filmed in its entirety by documentarian Brett Eichenberger.
“CooperCon21 will be Big, Fun, and Informative,” promises Eric Ulis. For those wishing to join this momentous event in person, tickets can be obtained at CooperCon2021.com. The cost is $20 per person.