Looking into the case of D.B. Cooper after almost 40 years, brings with it decades of speculation and theories. There are two goals when attempting a scientific analysis in this situation, first is to sort out fact from speculation and the second, to determine if there is any new information that has yet to be uncovered. Once those two things have been accomplished, then a road map moving forward should be evident. Half of the work performed here was invested in sorting out the various theories about how the money ended up on Tena Bar, where the flight path was, and if the description of Cooper and the jump was accurate. The rest of the effort was put into uncovering new physical evidence mostly centered around the particles on Cooper's tie.
This research came to several conclusions based on the best information at hand. The FBI Archive and the 302's were a significant starting point. Certainly 40 years after the event, any new information such as another discovery of hidden Cooper Cash, could come to light and significantly change the Cooper Landscape. Actual experiments were performed to acquire facts that were then used to constrain different hypotheses.
The FBI flight path map passes the test. Agents working on the flight path in 1971 had the radar and flight path data which is lost today. The SAGE radar used to track Cooper's plane was relied upon to identify, locate and track incoming Russian bombers and threats to the United States, so there is no reason to assume they would get it wrong. Analysis of various features of this case rule out the theories that require a different flight path than the one portrayed on the FBI map. Lastly, the text descriptions in the FBI 302 link the flight path to various towns. This research finds that the flight path and jump zone are reasonable and should be a cornerstone in the analysis of this case.
The money find on Tena Bar is complicated. The rubber band experiments allow less than a year for the money to become entombed in the sand. The money continues to resist all natural explanations for how it arrived on Tena Bar. The story behind the money may be as big as the Cooper story itself. There is no hard evidence that Cooper died in the jump so it remains a primary debate. If Cooper walked out of the woods, there would certainly be easier ways to explain the money if human intervention was involved.
The tie reasonably belonged to Cooper. A probability analysis was never done to estimate the likelihood of the black tie found on the plane belonging to Cooper. This probablility analysis shows that it is reasonable to assume that the tie belonged to the hijacker. This is a crucial first step since all the particles found on the tie tell a story, for that to be Cooper's story, there needed to be some critical review of the likelihood that the tie belonged to Cooper.
Cooper was a smoker. D.B. Cooper smoked eight Raleigh filter-tipped cigarettes on the plane, but there was no evidence to show if this was a regular habit of his. The majority of particles found on the tie had elemental compositions that matched book matches. The quantity of particles found must have accumulated over an extended period of time. Testimony also shows that he was concerned about retrieving his book matches after stewardess, Tina Mucklow used them to light his cigarettes.
Titanium metal was rare and exotic narrowing the field of possible D.B. Cooper suspects. The titanium particles on the tie was the most dramatic finding in this research. Most other metals would have to be written off as contamination or too common to be of any use. The additional finding that the titanium was not alloyed, allowed further restrictions on where Cooper could have acquired these unusual flecks. Cooper worked at or had access to a plant that used titanium and this fact alone reduces the number of potential suspects from millions down to hundreds.
A tie would have been worn by managers or engineers in metalworking plants. The spiral aluminum chips are only made using metalworking machinery. Since they were found on a tie, that suggests he was either an engineer or manager who went out on the shop floor. Only managers and engineers wore ties in metalworking plants at that time.
Chemical plants used pure titanium and other corrosion resistant metals. Pure titanium and 5000 series aluminum found on the tie have high anti-corrosive properties. In 1971 the most common place these two metals were found together would be chemical plants or the metal fabrication facility that built the components for the plant. Secondarily would be the companies who recovered scrap metal from these types of factories. This research shows that any new search for D.B. Cooper should begin in these areas.
Interesting but Speculative Notes about Dan Cooper
For decades Cooper has been a topic of conversation from bar rooms to the Internet (see Links). Special Agent Larry Carr gave a huge boost to the case by using the power of the public and releasing a lot of information relating to the case. Through the efforts of many people, a list of unusual characteristics has come to light that should be noted when formulating ideas about who, what and where is D.B. Cooper. Of course these ideas are all highly speculative, but are interesting enough not to be dismissed wholesale.
Cooper requested "negotiable American currency". This was the most notable line to come out of the Cooper transcripts where passengers on the plane, including the flight attendants, stated that Cooper had no distinguishable accent. Since no American citizen would use those terms, it suggests that Cooper was not originally from this country. If he was from another country, then his lack of accent points to French Canada as one of the few places in the world where you could hail from and not have an accent. The French Canadians without accents are the Franco-Manitobans, the Franco-Albertans, and possibly the Franco-Ontarians. They would be likely to not have an accent when speaking English. These communities live in a predominantly anglophone environment and tend to become native speakers. This also lines up with the fact that the Dan Cooper comic was only published in French, making Cooper's unusual request very interesting.
Wearing a suit to jump from an airplane is the classic icon of the Cooper mystery. It seems unusual until the other facts presented here are used to construct the bigger picture. If Cooper was an engineer type that wore a suit and tie to work every day, he would have been comfortable wearing it under a variety of situations. If he was planning ahead, he knew he had to hitchhike out of the woods and it is much easier to get picked up in a suit and tie than old blue jeans. If he had to invent some story and use the cash to prod a passerby into taking him to the nearest telephone or train station, a suit would have made the whole thing more believable and less suspicious.
The day before Thanksgiving is also interesting in light of the fact the FBI searched but couldn't find anyone who disappeared that weekend. If the continuing idea that Cooper died in the jump was true, then you would certainly expect to come up with a missing person report. If he lived, and the money was never found in circulation (they published all the serial numbers), then its also unlikely that he went on a spending spree and changed his lifestyle. If he didn't die, or buy a "new car", then the last option is to go back to your old life. If you were planning on going "back to work on Monday" then you would need as much time as possible to get out of the woods, find transportation and get home. The very best time for this is in front of a four-day weekend, which is the timing Dan Cooper chose for his crime.
For Cooper Sleuths, keep an eye out for a suspect from Canada, with military experience in airplanes. He would have come to this country to work in or around titanium metal fabrication. He was a gentleman, well dressed and smoked cigarettes. He was not the type to shy away from medication and knew his way around machinery, as well as the woods. Most notably, he probably lived a normal life and had one big problem that required about 200K in cash to solve.
The Cooper Research Team - 2011