The Unsolvable Mystery


Timeline–Nov 24th 1971. To many of us this date means nothing. To the FBI it is a constant bug bear as it is a reminder of one of the baffling cases in modern air history.

On this date a man calling himself D.B.Cooper bailed out of a Boeing 727 en-route from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. He jumped out somewhere on the route and caused a mystery as long standing as the Mary Celeste or the SS Waratah.

Among the questions I consider is not only why this route? But why this stretch of the route as it is only 180 miles by road, so it is probably about 150 or less by plane. The Boeing would have taken about 20 minutes maximum to cover this path.

Various theories have been brought forward to explain his disappearance, some people say he just changed his identity and lived on somewhere else. You have to take into account back in those days $200,000 was a small fortune. Why steal it, if you had no intention of using it? Unless to prove it could be done. In that case to keep things silent, the FBI could have closed the case, letting it drop as an example of how to stop it happening again.

This does not explain, how until 1980 only $2,000 of the ransom money turned up. My theory agrees with the original FBI idea- he died either during the fall or shortly after. Every parachutist will tell you, their worst fear is for a “Roman candle.”

In this scenario the chute gets twisted in the cords and instead of opening it just shoots up as one line. After a certain velocity this effect will just rip the emergency chute to shreds on opening. The jumper then just becomes a stone gathering momentum until the obvious conclusion. This is the best scenario as death is almost instant.

There is a true escape story set in WW2, were a Lancaster bomber tail-gunner bailed out over Norway at 3,000 ft without a parachute and survived, his fall was broken by trees and snow.

Did Cooper try this and fail?

The other two equally viable scenarios are far less pleasant. One sees the injured Mr.Cooper lying in a cave near death and freezing to death slowly, as well as injuries he would have body heat loss from shock. Even if he could move, where is he going to go? Now the subject of a manhunt by the FBI carrying a large bag of marked notes. It is a give away to his identity.
The other scenario sees the injured Mr. Cooper crashing to earth in bear country in mid-winter, need I say more?

The only possible way of using the money was to go to lots of out of the villages and slowly release the money back into the system. To get rid of that much in that scenario would take an inestimable time. All banks, casinos and places were large amounts could be dispersed had been notified. There was a $25,000 reward posted on the money, which has never been claimed.


This photo was taken in October, the snow fell overnight. We were well inland and relatively sheltered. Cooper landed on the far side of the Rockies in late November, with the temperature well below ours. If he survived the fall, he would probably have frozen to death. As for the money? To a wild animal $20 or $100 bill it made no difference, just a piece of paper for the den.

  1. Avatar of alanplace1956
    alanplace1956 says

    Here is an update on my story, as of November 2019 the FBI closed the case as unsolved.

  2. Avatar of Alan Place
    Alan Place says

    The SS Waratah has been located, but the diving team that found her is not telling anybody where she lies; my take on this is she is resting on a ledge and diving on her could endanger the divers.
    My explanation as to why a blue flash was seen, but no wreckage was found lies in science; she was always considered top-heavy, meaning her rigging is too high for her height, and at risk of capsizing.
    She vanished in one of the turbulent waters, Cape Horn, where the warm currents from the Indian Ocean meet the icy waters of the South Atlantic.
    She probably capsized, and her boilers came into contact with icy waters causing an explosion which was contained within the hold, hence the flash but no wreckage.

    I have witnessed the effects of this, on a smaller level. We had a pipe break while I was working at Blaise Castle museum in Henbury, Bristol because the window was covered with mesh not glass. The breakage was no larger than the thickness of a fingernail, but it filled three room with steam.

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