Hijacking of Flight 305 by D.B. Cooper: CASE CLOSED!
On the afternoon of November 24, 1971 a man identifying himself as Dan Cooper purchased a one way ticket from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. He boarded Northwest Airlines flight 305, a Boeing 727, carrying a briefcase and wearing a suit with a black overcoat. Cooper took a seat in the rear of the plane. Once in flight he lit a cigarette and ordered a drink from the flight attendant. After receiving and paying for his drink, Cooper passed a note to the flight attendant which stated that he had a bomb. The note went on to say that he wanted $200,000 in twenty dollar bills and two parachutes upon landing in Seattle. Wearing sunglasses, the mystery man remained calm and cordial to the flight attendants.
Once on the ground in Seattle, the FBI provided the ransom money after thoroughly documenting and photographing each of the bills. Two parachutes were provided to the hijacker and the plane was refueled. Upon receiving all of his ransom demands, Cooper released all of the passengers and flight attendants. All who remained on the plane were the pilot, co-pilot, the flight engineer and one flight attendant. He then instructed the pilots to fly toward Mexico City at 200 miles per hour at an altitude of 10,000 feet. The hijacked airliner took off from Seattle at 7:40 p.m. with the flight crew under instructions to stay in the cockpit. Shortly after take-off, flight attendant Muklow observed the hijacker tying something to his body. At 8:00 p.m., the rear staircase indicator light came on in the cockpit as the rear staircase of the craft was being lowered manually from inside the aircraft. At 8:13 p.m. with two parachutes and twenty-one pounds of ransom money in hand, Dan Cooper jumped into history.
In the days following the hijacking the FBI began to investigate the crime. A search of the plane yielded very few clues but it was discovered that before jumping from the aircraft, Cooper had removed his tie. Many witnesses were questioned and on a hunch detectives questioned a Portland, Oregon man named D.B. Cooper. Anxious reporters put the man’s name out as a person of interest and the name of “D.B. Cooper” has been attached to the hijacking and Dan Cooper ever since the crime was perpetrated.
With help from the U.S. Air Force the FBI recreated the jump conditions of the jump and placed his landing in the area around Lake Merwin near Ariel, Washington. The FBI with help from state and local law enforcement, the U.S. Air Force and the National Guard began to comb the woods in the area of the supposed landing site of Dan Cooper. The searches, eyewitness questioning, suspect list and a trace of the numbered bills used to pay the ransom failed to yield any leads at all. To this day the hijacking of Flight 305 by Dan Cooper remains an open case.
In 1978, deer hunters near Castle Rock, Washington discovered the information placard from the rear staircase of Flight 305. Castle Rock is located north of Lake Merwin.
In 1980, $5800 of the ransom money (290 bills) was found buried on a sandy shore of the Columbia River near Vancouver, Washington over twenty miles from Lake Merwin. The money was deteriorated and water logged but was still bundled in the original packing. Over $194,000 or 9700 bills from the ransom have never been recovered.
In 2008 a piece of parachute found near Amboy, Washington, six miles from Lake Merwin, is believed to be one of the two parachutes that Dan Cooper used in his escape from the hijacked airplane. These items, the money, placard and parachute are the only evidence that has ever been located in connection with the crime.
Then, in 2011, an Oklahoma City woman, Marla Cooper, came forward to claim that her uncle, Lynn Doyle Cooper, generally known as L.D., was D.B. Cooper of the 1971 hijacking. Lynn Doyle Cooper was known to be a huge fan of the French comic book character Dan Cooper who was a skydiving hero. L.D. was an avid outdoorsman and a logger who was raised in the small town of Sisters, Oregon. He was very familiar with the northwest woods and possessed the survival skills that would be needed to get out of the area following a parachute landing. Marla Cooper believes that he lost control of the money after jumping from Flight 305 explaining why the money has never made it back into circulation.
Marla states that L.D. and another of her uncle’s left her grandmother's house on the morning of November 24th, 1971 on a turkey hunting trip but returned on the 25th bruised and bloody claiming to have been in a car crash. Shortly after that L.D. Cooper disappeared and was not seen by the family again.
In a phone conversation with Miss Cooper on December 5, 2011, I gained a lot of insight into the L.D. Cooper story as well as her feelings on the subject. It should be noted that Miss Cooper is writing a book on the subject, therefore for her protection we will not reveal some of her sources and omit some information.
I asked Miss Cooper about Dan Cooper’s attitude. He was very polite and cordial to flight attendant Florence Shaffner to whom he passed the note and from whom he ordered his drinks. At no point during the hijacking was he ever loud, angry or aggressive toward the passengers or crew. Miss Cooper relayed to me that he had not been raised that way and it wasn’t in him to be that way towards other people. He was a nice, easy going guy who smiled a lot.
We discussed the jump from Flight 305…. The flight attendant saw the hijacker strapping something to his body just before jumping from the plane. Miss Cooper tells me that it was explained to her by family members that Cooper had a problem during the jump and in an attempt to correct the problem, the money became untied from his body. In the event any of the money made it to the ground with the hijacker he probably suspected that the money had been marked or documented or, in the words of Miss Cooper, “He just knew that it (the crime) was wrong.”
She went on to explain that the reports of the jump had been misreported. The weather was bad on the night of November 24th but D.B. Cooper told the pilot at what speed, altitude and direction to fly. L.D. Cooper worked as a surveyor and knew this area very well. It has been reported that D.B. Cooper jumped over a very heavily wooded area when, in all actuality, he jumped over farmland and had planned his jump to put himself inside of a six mile area which was only seven miles from the home of L.D. Cooper. The parachute that was requested by D.B. Cooper was not steerable which would make his drop dependent solely on the wind to carry his direction.
Miss Cooper told me that twelve months after the hijacking, L.D. Cooper disappeared and had no contact with his family. One of his brothers, and possibly an accomplice to the hijacking, did report that from 1980 to 1985 that contact had been made between L.D. and another family member. However, that brother had his own troubles. He was questioned by law enforcement regarding his involvement in the hijacking. Shortly after, he too went on the run, making his way to an unspecified location where he remained for a year. Miss Cooper imparted to me that the actions of her uncle were a tragedy and deeply affected her family. With her uncle, L.D. in hiding and another on the run it took people and time from her and other family members that could never be regained.
I want to thank Miss Cooper for taking the time to speak with me thus allowing me to get the real story out to my readers. Coming forward with this story shows great courage and closes the book on one of America’s greatest mysteries. Thank You Marla From StrangeHistory.org!
--Gary S. Smith, December 6, 2011