New claims about the identity of skyjacker D.B. Cooper are unlikely to solve the riddle that has captivated America for 40 years, says Geoffrey Gray, the author of a new book on the case.
Instead, the myth of the only man ever successfully to pull off a plane hijacking will live on, he said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV.
The reason Cooper is still alive in the imagination of so many people is that he possesses all of the qualities that we really desire in our lives but rarely have or rarely are able to enact, said Gray, whose book, “Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper,”
comes out Tuesday.
“We all want to be courageous. We all want to do bold things. We all want to stand up against The Man, or our bosses, or whatever forces are keeping us down. But we don’t — and that’s OK. That’s why we have heroes.
“And Cooper, despite being a criminal, through this one act, this one jump, by falling out of a plane into a forest, was able to rekindle the hopes of people who want to feel that they can overcome, that they can be free once again.”
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A man calling himself Dan Cooper approached the counter of Northwest Orient Airlines at Portland International Airport on the day before Thanksgiving 1971 and bought a one-way ticket on Flight 305 to Seattle. Once on board, he ordered a bourbon and soda and lit a Raleigh cigarette (way back in the days when passengers could smoke on airplanes).
When the plane was in the air, he passed a note to flight attendant Florence Schaffner that said: “I have a bomb in my briefcase, I will use it if necessary. I want you to sit next to me. You are being hijacked.”
He showed Schaffner eight red canisters attached to wires inside the case. He said he wanted $200,000 in unmarked $20 bills and four parachutes, and he wanted the plane refueled once it landed.
When the plane got to Seattle after circling over Puget Sound for two hours, the money and parachutes were delivered, and Cooper allowed passengers and flight attendants to leave. The plane then took off with four crew members, headed for Reno, Nev. Cooper insisted that all crew members stay in the cockpit.
Once they landed in Reno, the back door to the plane, which had been flying low, was found to have been opened, and Cooper was nowhere to be found.
The story hit the headlines again last week when an Oklahoma woman claimed that her late uncle, Korean War veteran Lynn Doyle Cooper, was the hijacker. L.D. Cooper died in 1999.
Gray said one of the phenomena of the whole Cooper case was the number of nieces who have claimed they had an uncle who was the hijacker.
“It’s a very common claim, something very vanilla in Cooper-land,” he said.
But he said the woman in this case has no proof that her uncle was even capable of pulling off such an outrageous stunt.
“But right now, for some reason, we want to believe in Uncle L.D. — and that belief, to me, is truly noteworthy.”
Gray said he is the first person who has had access to the full FBI files on the case, and he has interviewed people who were on the plane. He believes D.B. Cooper probably is dead, as he would be in his mid-80s if he had survived the jump.
Authorities at the time had said Cooper could not have survived the jump over mountainous territory in southern Washington state, Gray said, but his new research shows that they had plenty of experts saying he could have lived.
And he says he believes Cooper jumped out in a marshy area near Ariel, Wash., so he could have had a soft landing.
Cooper’s identity probably never will be known because of the poor state of the evidence, partial fingerprints and DNA evidence, Gray said. The butts of eight Raleighs he smoked are missing, he said.
One of the problems with the case is what Gray called “the curse” of D.B. Cooper. “It always has a way of cropping up,” he said.
“Just as you think you have Cooper in your sights and you are able to uncover the identity of the hijacker, when it comes time to prove it, that’s when the curse slips under the crack in the door and has a way of messing things up all the time.”
Editor’s Note: To get a copy of Geoffrey Gray’s book, “Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper,” at a good price — Go Here Now.
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