The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.
Genealogists are experts at identifying deceased people. In fact, the same skills often work well at finding living people as well. Many genealogists find employment that involves locating missing heirs, finding criminals, or what is called "skip tracing:" finding people who skipped out of town with no known forwarding address. The ultimate challenge, however, would be to find D.B. Cooper. After all, the FBI has been looking for him for 39 years. Nobody even knows if he is dead or alive. Can you find him?
Very little was known about D.B. Cooper. However, the FBI released several new documents a few years ago that offer just a bit more information about this mysterious hijacker. It is theoretically possible that a skilled genealogist, using today's computer databases, might be able to figure out who this man was.
On Thanksgiving Eve, November 24, 1971, a man calling himself Dan Cooper purchased a one-way ticket on Northwest Orient Airlines (now called Northwest Airlines) Flight 305. The flight was carrying 36 passengers and crew. The flight originated in Portland, Oregon, with the final destination of Seattle, Washington.
Dan Cooper hijacked the jetliner just prior to its arrival in Seattle. After landing, Cooper allowed the passengers and two flight attendants to depart the plane. One flight attendant remained on board. Northwest Orient Airlines delivered $200,000 to the airplane, along with four parachutes, at Cooper's request. He asked for two standard parachutes and two backup chutes that strap to the chest. Authorities made a mistake in the haste to meet the hijacker’s demands: one of the delivered backup chutes was intended for training purposes only and was sewn shut. It would never open. If Cooper ever noticed the “differences,” he never mentioned the fact to the airplane’s crew members.
The plane with Cooper and a few crew members on board departed Seattle for Reno, Nevada. Within minutes, Cooper told the crew to change the flight plan and to proceed to Mexico. A few minutes later, Cooper strapped one main chute and one backup parachute to his body, opened the rear stairway of the Boeing 727, and then jumped out into the darkness.
Then the mystery begins.
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