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The Facts and the Myths

Page Contents

*        Facts

*        Myths

*        Not yet Classified


The “Facts and Myths” page is an attempt to sort through all that information “out there” and establish to a reasonable degree what’s true and/or based on reliable testimony and what’s clutter and mythology based on conjecture.


Information found in popular books, magazine articles, internet blogs, and other sources have been classified as “Fact,” “Myth,” or “Not Yet Classified”. These statements are presented in no particular order. If an item is in the “Not Yet Classified” section, I welcome help from readers in tracking down the issue and helping me make a “Fact vs. Myth” determination.


If you have reason to disagree with my determination (classification) of these statements, please e-mail me at State the source or basis of your disagreement and I will research it. I have researched all these issues as completely as possible, but I am not infallible. I appreciate your input. I would rather know the truth, than be right.





03-13-2009 Note:

In the next few weeks I will be updating this and other pages to include links to a “Table of Authorities” to identify the source of the information displayed.







Northwest Airlines Flight 305 was a Boeing 727-51. The 727-51 is a 727-100 series airplane, built for Northwest Airlines. A United Airlines 727-100 was a 727-22, and an American Airlines 727-100 was a 727-23, etc.

The Flight Crew

The flight's pilot, Captain William Scott, 51, had been flying for Northwest for 20 years. Also aboard was First Officer William "Bill" Rataczak; Flight Engineer Harold E. Anderson, and three flight attendants, Alice Hancock, Tina Mucklow, 22, and Florence Schaffner, 23.

Authority: Table of Authorities #2

The “Pilot in Command” (PIC) was Captain Scott, but the plane was being flown by First Officer Rataczak.

Authority: Table of Authorities #10

Rataczak, retired June 28, 1999 after a 34-year career with Northwest Airlines.

Authority: Table of Authorities #3

Cooper did not specify the denomination of bills he was to receive.

Authority: Table of Authorities #5

Cooper did not specify V-23 as the route to Reno.

Authority: Table of Authorities #5

Cooper was not a part of the flight path determination.

Authority: Table of Authorities #5

Cooper had only one drink in the 5 hours he was on the plane and he spilled half of it.

Authority: Table of Authorities #1

No one from the cockpit ever left it until they reached Reno.

Authority: Table of Authorities #5

The rigger (Earl Cossey) supplied back-packs without D-rings, there was nothing for Cooper to clip the reserve to.  In Cossey's statement to the FBI on 11/26/1971, 4th paragraph "...he described the missing back pack parachute (The one Cooper jumped with) as having a sage green nylon container, model NB6 with sage green nylon harness, which harness has no "D" rings to mount a chest pack."

Authority: Table of Authorities #2

The chutes were secured through NWA's Seattle flight operations. The flight ops manager called an individual from Pacific Aviation who in turn called an individual he knew (Earl Cossey) who had two back packs. Cossey put the two back packs in a cab and the cab driver delivered them to Boeing Field and then onto Sea-Tac by private car.

The chest chutes were picked up in Issaquah at Seattle Sky Sports and transported to Sea-Tac by the State Patrol.

The NB6 and the Pioneer were Cossey's chutes, he had them at his house, they weren't at Seattle Skysports.

Authority: Table of Authorities #2

Cooper's plan was to have the money delivered in a knapsack. When he realized it did not come as requested he tried to secure the money in the reserve's container but could not make it fit. He then decided to use the cords to tie off the top of the money bag, then wrapped the cords several times top to bottom and fashioned some type of handle out of more cord. Tina stated the last time she saw Cooper he was tying cord around his waist.

Authority: Table of Authorities #2 and Table of Authorities #5

The money was approximately the size of an average toddler.

Authority: Table of Authorities #2

Earl Cossey actually packed all four chutes, the two back pack chutes were sold or given to the individual who sent them in the cab to Boeing Field. Cossey also packed the reserve chutes, but they were provided not by Cossey but the owner of Issaquah Sky Sports. Cossey discovered that one chute was for “Training Only” later on.

Authority: Table of Authorities #2

Cooper never made the request that the chutes not come from McChord, his only demand was two back and two front chutes. In fact he assumed they were coming from McChord from a mistake the pilot made in relaying information to Tina. At 5:15 Tina called the cockpit to find out why they had not landed (Cooper wanted everything by 5 PM), the pilot told Tina they were still waiting for the front chutes from McChord. When Tina relayed this to Cooper his response was, "McChord is only 20 minutes from Tacoma, it doesn't take that long."

Cooper knew the aft air stairs could be opened in flight but he was wrong as to how they opened and knew little to nothing of their operation.

Authority: Table of Authorities #1

Cooper did not leave the briefcase on the plane, it has never been found.

Authority: Table of Authorities #1

Cooper was second to last to board the aircraft. He was carrying a briefcase and a small sized paper bag containing unknown items.

Authority: Table of Authorities #1

The only thing Cooper wrote was the original note that said; “Miss I have a bomb, come sit by me.” The rest was dictated by Cooper to Schaffner who then took the demands to the captain.

Authority: Table of Authorities #2

Descriptions of Cooper:


"W/M, mid 40's, 5-10" 6', 180 to 190, med to dark complexion, medium build, dark straight hair with narrow sideburns to mid ear parted and combed back, dark plastic wrap-around sunglasses, dark top coat, dark brown suit possibly with a thin black stripe, brown socks, brown ankle length pebble grain shoes, not the tie type, he had a low voice with no accent, she did not see scars, marks or tattoos, the man did not have on any jewelry she could see."


"W/M, mid 40's, 6', 170-175, average build, brown eyes, straight black hair medium length and parted on the left side, olive skin, black business suit, white shirt, thin black tie, black overcoat, black shoes, black briefcase, dark framed sunglasses with brown lenses, no scars marks or tattoos, he had a normal calm voice and appeared to be of Latin descent."

Authority: Table of Authorities #2

The money was provided by Seafirst bank which is now Bank of America. The money had been earmarked for situations such as these and was always on hand. It had been photographed and serial numbers recorded by their security so the FBI did none of this.

The money was then transported by SeaFirst bank security to a Seattle police detective who then drove it to the airport and handed over to NWA. The money was bundled in various counts so that no bundle was the same. Each bundle was secured by rubber band and different counts so that it appeared the money was hastily gathered.

Authority: Table of Authorities #2

The original suspected landing zone (up near Lake Merwin) was covered with less that 0.2 cm of ash and other ejecta after the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption.

The Outside Air Temperature (OAT) at 10,0000 ft. MSL was reported by NW 305 as being -7º C (19 ºF). Assuming 145 mph terminal velocity, the initial wind chill would have been -14º C (8º F) and would be negligible when he was “under canopy”. As he descended the temperature would have risen. The standard lapse rate is 3.56 °F/1000 ft. Therefore, for every 1000 feet he descended the air temperature would have increased approximately 3.56º F. The lowest ground temperature for that night was 43º F.

"Dan Cooper" was the second from last to board NW Flt 305.

Authority: Table of Authorities #1

From the D. B Cooper forum:

*    Someone calling himself Dan Cooper bought a ticket and then boarded Flight 305.

*    This “Dan Cooper” gave the stewardess a note saying he had a bomb and showed her something that: “In the left corner had 8 long sticks of about 6 inches long and 1 inch in diameter there were two rows of them. Then a wire out of there. Then a batt lite [sic], (probably like) a flashlight batt only as sthik [sic], (probably thick) as my arm and eight inches long”. [From RTTY or TTY Log Page 104]

*    He asked for two front chutes and two back chutes and $200,000 cash, without designating bill size.

*    This “Dan Cooper” released all passengers and two of the stewardesses at SEA and kept one stewardess and all of the cockpit crew on board.

*    He received two pilot emergency back-type parachutes, and two chest-type reserves. (one of which was unusable).

*    He demanded the plane get airborne before ATC issued a clearance. Or possibly a clearance to Sacramento was issued.

*    He cut up one chute (a reserve) and used the parts to wrap the money sack and secure it to his body (or the rig).

*    At the time of the hijacking and subsequent search, it was assumed he jumped from the plane at or near the Merwin Dam (20:11 PST (based on a reported “pressure bump”). In 20:08, the FBI extended the calculation to 20:13, 20:14, or 20:15, which would put the jump somewhere near Orchard, WA. Note: Orchard is 6 miles SE of the BTG VOR. [Based on Flight Tracking Strip (Radar based) supplied by the FBI].

*    The FBI’s original assumed Drop Zone was re-assessed (in the last 5 years) and has been moved some 17 NM south.

*    The plane continued (with aft stairs still lowered) to Reno, NV where it landed safely. Cooper was not onboard.

*    On February 10, 1980, three packs of $20 dollar bills totaling $5,800 were found by an 8 year old boy who was digging along the Columbia River at Tena Bar, about 3 NM  NNW of where the flight (presumably without Dan Cooper) crossed the Columbia River. See [Note 1] in Not Yet Classified

*    His body was never reported found.

*    Dr. Leonard Palmer of Portland State University concluded that the dredging operation in 1974 did not put the money onto the beach, because the bills were found above clay deposits put on the banks by the dredge. [AP Release 02-14-1980]

*    Leonard A. Palmer, emeritus associate professor of geology, died 31 December 2001 in Seattle following a 3.5-year bout with pancreatic cancer. [A Tribute to Leonard Palmer, PhD. From]

These are Cooper’s exact words as spoken to Schaffner:

Cooper said to Schaffner; "Take this down. I want $200,000 by 5:00 PM in cash. Put it in a knapsack. I want two back parachutes and two front parachutes. When we land, I want a fuel truck ready to refuel. No funny stuff, or I'll do the job."

Authority: Table of Authorities #2

Cooper paid $18.52 + $1.48 tax for a one-way ticket from Portland, OR to Seattle, WA. He paid with a $20 bill.

Authority: Table of Authorities #1

Adjusted for inflation, $200,000 in 1971 has the buying power of $1,045,397.53 in 2008. [Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator. United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.]

A Lockheed Hercules C-130 out of Hamilton Air Force Base, California, commanded by Captain Bruce Kennard of the 41st ARRS, was sent to intercept Flight 305. The HC-130 intercepted the B-727 around Red Bluff, CA, at which time they turned out their lights and followed at 12,000 ft MSL and five miles in trail (about 1000 feet above Flight 305). The Tail # of the HC-130 was 65-0983, the call sign was Air Rescue 50983. An excerpt from History 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing  and a photo of HC-130 65-0983 can be found in the “Photo Evidence Page.”

Flight Test Data

On 01/06/1972, NWA, FBI and Air Force personnel flew the 727 used for Flight 305 (N467US) out over the Pacific with two 230 lb sleds. The weight of the sleds was to emulate the weight Cooper would have been when he jumped. (Cooper’s estimated body weight of 180 lb + the 21 lbs of money + weight of the chutes).

Once in the test area the plane was flown with flaps at 15 degrees, wheels down, approximately 150 KIAS. When the aft airstairs were released, they dropped 20 degrees (Photo here.). There was a slight change in cabin pressure indicated by gauges, but not felt by the flight crew.

Air Force Captain Wilson and M/Sgt Saiz individually walked down the airstairs (wearing parachutes) and stood at the bottom. Each reported that the stairs lowered to almost a level position, they were stable, no drag from the wind and they could stand fully upright.

When at the bottom of the stairs the cabin pressure gauge showed significant changes.

They then performed a test by dropping each of the two sleds and in both tests the sleds dropped directly down (dispelling a theory that Cooper would have been slammed up against the tail when he jumped). The moment the sleds cleared the stairs the flight crew felt a popping in their ears and the cabin pressure gauge reacted violently. It was discovered from chase plane photo's, video and reports from Wilson and Saiz that the pressure change was caused by the stairs being forced upward by the airstream after the weight was removed.

Flight Engineer Harold E. Anderson, who was present for the test and served on the flight crew of Flight 305 the night of the hijacking, stated that the pressure bump felt during the test was identical to what was experienced the night of the hijacking.

Authority: Table of Authorities #2



Mayfield is subject #3 (in order of investigation) out of 1057. A full investigation was conducted that include far more than fingerprint analysis.

Authority: Table of Authorities #2




Cooper specified that the money should be in used $20 bills.

Cooper specified the bills should have random, not sequential, serial numbers. FBI agents followed his instructions but made sure each bill began with the code letter L, issued by the Federal Reserve office in San Francisco. Nearly all of the bills were dated 1969. Against a ticking clock, the agents held a hurried session in which each bill was photographed to create a microfilm record of all 10,000 serial numbers.

Cooper consulted with the pilot and they (jointly) decided to use V-23 as the route to Reno.

Cooper warned the pilot he was wearing a wrist altimeter to monitor the altitude.

Like so many other American males of that day, Cooper wore a homburg hat—felt, with a dented crown and narrow brim.

Cooper rejected the military chutes, which have automatic opening mechanisms.

There has been a persistent myth that the original suspected landing zone (up near Lake Merwin) was covered with 5 to 8 feet of ash and other ejecta after the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption.

The temperature outside the aircraft was -7º F with a wind chill of -70º.

"Dan Cooper" was the last to board NW Flt 305.

NWA Boeing 727s had RTTY gear aboard in 1971.

USAF SAGE air defense radar center at McChord AFB would have tracked Cooper's exiting body.

Cooper looked for, found, and removed a packing card from at least one of the rigs he was given. (An oft repeated statement on Cooper blogs but no investigative record can be found that substantiates this claim).

Preparing to make his unscheduled departure from Flight 305, Cooper carefully scooped up his cigarette butts.

Brian Ingram came across a waterlogged, sand-encrusted satchel containing 294 moldy $20 bills.

Richard Simmons’ Encounter  With Cooper

While the plane was still circling before landing at SEA, a passenger, Richard Simmons had an uncomfortable encounter with Cooper as he (Simmons) was going aft to use the restroom. He stated that as he went past the stewardess (in the Isle beside Cooper) Cooper turned around and glared at him. He said that during this encounter he got a “pretty good look” at Cooper. Simmons felt that Cooper was watching him too closely, enough to make Simmons very uncomfortable.


This myth’s origin was an episode of a syndicated television program called “In Search Of… D B Cooper” originally broadcast on December 6th, 1979. The episode contained an interview with Richard Simmons and his wife Barbara, in the interview Simmons went into great detail about his encounter with Cooper.


In Search of ...” was a TV documentary series that was broadcast weekly from 1976 to 1982. The style was often more expository than explanatory.


The series conducted "investigations" into the pseudoscientific and paranormal (e.g., UFOs, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster). Because the show often presented offbeat subjects and controversial theories, each episode's opening credits include a verbal disclaimer about the potentially conjecturable nature of the evidence and theories to be presented:

"This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producer's purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine."


According to FBI records:

When the passengers were taken off of the plane they were escorted to a VIP lounge. Only five of the 35 passengers indicated that they took notice of Cooper or that there were aware that there may have been a problem, other than what was announced by the crew (mechanical difficulty). They are as follows:

Mr. Gregory

Mr. Labissoniere

Mr. Spreckel

Mr. Mitchell

Mrs. House


The remaining 30 passengers, including Richard and Barbara Simmons, stated they knew of nothing other than what the flight crew had advised them, nor did they notice Cooper.


Authority: Table of Authorities #2


Not Yet Classified

[Note 1]

In May 1986 Brian Ingram, 14 at the time, received $2,760 from his discovery of the small portion of Cooper loot. An equal share was given to the insurer of Northwest Orient. The last $280 was kept as evidence.

Larry Finegold, a Seattle lawyer who, incidentally, is also a former federal prosecutor was sitting on Flight 305 that day, wondering why the plane kept circling Seattle.

Brian Ingram’s mother and father were named Duane (or Harold) and Patricia Ingram and they had just moved from Oklahoma to Vancouver, Washington XXX Months before he found the money.

Access to the beach was blocked by private property, but the Ingrams were friends with the landowners, and permission to pass through was never a problem.

Brian Ingram (in 2008) described the find like this: "That's when I first saw three bundles of money just below the surface, all meshed together. The rubber bands were still on them, but they were brittle to touch and just crumbled off.”

NWA’s insurer Globe Indemnity Co. They paid $180,000 for the claim. There was a $20,000 deductable.

Three versions of how Dan Cooper became “D. B.”

Version #1:

On Thanksgiving Day, the FBI mounted a search of its national crime records for known felons named Dan Cooper, just in case the hijacker had used his real name. The agency sent an agent in Portland to the police headquarters to investigate the rap sheet of a local man, D.B. Cooper. Clyde Jabin, a UPI news wire service reporter, heard that the FBI was nosing around, and inquired to a records clerk as to why.  The clerk told Jabin that the agents were checking on D.B. Cooper regarding the hijacking, and so Jabin reported that to his bureau chief. The man was cleared, but the name "D.B. Cooper" was now synonymous with the hijacker.

Version #2:

Retired FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach, who was an agent on the case, said he sent agents to the Portland Police Bureau to check records for a Dan Cooper. They found records for a D.B. Cooper – who was investigated and dismissed the night of the hijacking. Himmelsbach, whose recollection differs slightly from the reporter's account, said a records clerk told Jabin the hijacker's initials were D.B.

Version #3:

B.J. McFarland, Jabin's bureau chief in 2001, now 83 (in 2008), recalls Jabin insisting he was given the initials D.B. from an FBI agent during the hijacking. Airlines at the time made passenger lists with last names and first initials, which McFarland believes created the confusion. "I asked him, 'Clyde, is it possible that the agent said 'D. Cooper' and you said 'Is that 'D' as in dog or 'B' like boy?' and the agent said that was right?" "Jabin said, 'That's exactly how it happened.'" Jabin's article with the initials D.B. traveled around the world within hours of the hijacking, McFarland said.

Jabin, who spent more than three decades with UPI, died in a 2001 car accident at age 73. Regardless which story is true, it’s safe to say, Clyde Jabin gave Dan Cooper the name “D.B.”

There was a 20 year old student named Bill Mitchell, seated across from Cooper, but, he wasn't aware of the hijacking so paid little attention to Cooper. All he said was, “that Cooper hair was shiny, as if it were dyed, and that he was wearing long underwear."

This is from a newspaper article, talking about the night of 11/24/71 "Harold Babitzke, who lives five miles from town [Ariel], said his daughter was startled by "a strange man" carrying a package under his arm on Lewis River Road, which runs past Ariel. "He looked like he didn't want a ride from anybody." Babitzke said. "1 really think it was Cooper."



Page Contents

*        Facts

*        Myths

*        Not yet Classified




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This page was last revised: March 17, 2010.