At least 95 percent of all investigations into the DB Cooper hijacking have made the same assumption. They all believe that he jumped out of the Boeing 727 at 8:13 pm which would have meant he was over a forest wilderness area north of Portland and west of Mount St. Helens. This assumption is based entirely on one factor – the pilot felt the tail of the plane lift suddenly a short while after Cooper lowered the rear stairs. That’s it!
Incredibly, this is the story that has stuck but did he really jump at 8:13 because if he didn’t then for over forty years people have been looking in the wrong place.
THE 8:13 QUESTION
The official story states that the man calling himself Dan Cooper jumped from the rear stairs of the Boeing 727 aircraft at 8:13pm on the 24th November 1971. This ‘moment’ was determined because it was shortly after the time that the stairs were opened and because the pilot (Scott) noticed the tail of the aircraft lurch upwards and he claims he had to trim the wings to compensate. The motion felt by Scott was said to have been caused by the weight of Cooper leaving the stairs causing them to bounce upwards towards the fuselage. This assumption led to one of the largest manhunts on American soil and very much focused on the small town of Ariel some 25 miles north of Portland and turned up absolutely no trace of Cooper whatsoever.
But … what if Cooper didn’t jump at 18:13? Well, for a start it would explain why no trace of Cooper has ever been found in the region other than an old instruction placard and some money buried in a sandbank many miles away – both of which are quite easily explained.
What is the evidence that Cooper may have jumped later than most people accept? Here are some facts to consider:
The plane was flying through a blustery weather system with rain, crosswinds and updrafts. With the tail stairs lowered some aviation experts believe it is quite possible that the ‘upward motion of the tail’ was caused by air turbulence rather than by a man jumping out.
The stairs are often described as rebounding upwards after Cooper jumped but there are two problems with this part of the story. Firstly, Cooper knew enough about parachuting to know that jumping would be the wrong way to launch himself. It is far more likely that he would have eased himself off the stairs so that he would quickly be able to assume the freefall position and avoid tumbling. Secondly, the aft stair of the Boeing would have already been in the slipstream of the jet and if it was weak enough to rise after Cooper parachuted it would have been weak enough for the air pressure to have raised it up – which hadn’t happened.
The crew felt that the ‘upward motion’ meant that Cooper had jumped but, contrary to some versions of the story, they did not open or leave the cockpit until the aircraft touched down at Reno airport some 195 minutes later. Clearly the crew weren’t so certain that Cooper was gone after all.
Once on the ground the plane was surrounded by armed law enforcement officers and FBI agents who believed that Cooper could still be on-board and conducted a thorough search. It seems that, at the time, the authorities weren’t certain when Cooper jumped either.
A big unanswered question is … why would Cooper jump over the worst possible terrain in the worst possible weather? The FBI’s answer is simple. Cooper must have been an idiot. However, all the evidence suggests the opposite. Cooper clearly understood the aircraft, had carefully planned his mission, knew exactly what kind of parachutes he needed and even knew the details of the airstair mechanism – details not even known by the pilots. He had planned and correctly anticipated every move that his opponents would make and was quite adept at misdirection as can be seen in his instructions to ‘fly to Mexico’ while clearly he never planned to go there at all. With all this in mind it seems bizarre and unrealistic that he should jump over a heavily forested area that would make landing near impossible, in weather that could damage the parachute while knowing that he would then have to walk out of a dense cold wilderness in the dark while being hunted. In fact, the authorities were initially convinced that Cooper was smart, familiar with airplanes and parachutes and knew what he was doing. It was only after it became clear that they were failing to catch him that they started portraying him as a fool who must have died while trying to escape. This is classic ‘sour grapes’.