New Suspect in D.B. Cooper Skyjacking Case Unearthed

1972 FBI Composite Drawing of DB Cooper

This isn’t genealogy. Instead, let’s file this article under “History.” Whatever the classification, I find it interesting.

On Nov. 24, 1971, a man using the name Dan Cooper hijacked Northwest Orient Flight 305 out of Portland and demanded money — a lot of it. “Do you have a grudge against Northwest?” a flight attendant asked Cooper during the skyjacking.

His response: “I don’t have a grudge against your airline, Miss. I just have a grudge.”

A U.S. Army officer with a security clearance and a “solid professional reputation” believes he has now solved the infamous D.B. Cooper skyjacking case — naming a partnership of two now-dead men in New Jersey who have never before been suspected, “possibly breaking wide open the only unsolved skyjacking case in U.S. history,” according to the Oregonian.

The evidence certainly isn’t conclusive nor is it air tight. But there are some interesting coincidences.

First, the man believed to have parachuted from the low-flying airliner was a lifelong railroad employee. He would have known that, no matter where D.B. Cooper landed, he would have been no more than 5-to-7 miles from railroad tracks. Also, he would have been able to see Interstate 5 from the air anywhere along the route the airliner flew. He also would have known that one rail line ran parallel to the highway. As an experienced railroad man, he could have easily jumped on a passing freight train and traveled to most anywhere in the U.S., including to his home in New Jersey. If stopped and questioned, he probably was carrying his railroad ID badge and perhaps other documentation. In short, he had a good alibi as to why he was riding a freight train.

There is a claim that the man who was a close friend of the hijacker, along with his wife, were traveling by automobile in the Pacific northwest at the time of the highjacking. Did they meet the hijacker someplace and give him a ride home? Nobody knows for sure and this idea is pure speculation. Indeed, some people claim the trip never happened.

The man believed to be the hijacker also a scar on his hand, something noted by the flight crew on the airplane.

The FBI also kept a secret for many years that was finally revealed a few years ago: the (cheap) necktie left behind on the airplane by the hijacker was examined and found to have dust from some rather rare metals. Where would the hijacker be exposed to such rarely-found metals? Similar metals were commonly found in the railroad yards where the two men (the man believed to be the hijacker plus his close friend who may or may not have been involved in the plot) worked.

Next, the man who is believed to be the hijacker is known to have visited a skydiving facility in 1971 although there don’t seem to be any existing records remaining of what he did there.

On the left: an FBI drawing of DB Cooper as described by witnesses on the airplane made shortly after the highjacking. On the right, a photograph of the late William J. Smith, apparently taken some years after the hijacking.

Finally, the two police sketch-artist portraits made shortly after the hijacking seem to bear a strong resemblance to a picture of the man who supposedly hijacked the Northwest Orient flight.

Perhaps the most interesting fact is that neither man had any record of other illegal activities, either before or after the hijacking. Instead, they both were working men worried about their railroad pensions going away.

Both men are now deceased.

Over the years, several claims have been made that the identity of DB Cooper has been “revealed.” However, none of the claims have ever been proven. This new claim also might never be proven.

Was D. B. Cooper’s real name William J. Smith? I have no idea but you can read the article at and then decide for yourself.

Genealogists are very good at tracking all sorts of information about now-deceased individuals. Can anyone find out where William J. Smith was on Nov. 24, 1971 and the few days after that?


Dick, I always enjoy your little forays away from genealogy subjects. What I don’t recall is how did he get the $200,000? Do you know?
Happy Thanksgiving,
Joan from the JGS of Greater Miami,


    —> What I don’t recall is how did he get the $200,000? Do you know?

    That is the ransom money that hijacker “DB Cooper” demanded to release the airplane and the passengers on the plane. He asked for $200,000 in “negotiable American currency” and the money was delivered to the hijacker when the plane landed in Seattle. He also demanded parachutes. Once the cash and the parachutes were delivered to the plane and the airplane was refueled, “DB Cooper” then commanded the plane to take off with only five people onboard.

    A few minutes later, “DB Cooper” apparently jumped out of the stairway at the rear of the airplane while it was in mid-flight.

    For details, see the article in Wikipedia at


    Thanks Dick.


Wonder if DNA analysis could be done on the bow tie he left behind on the plane? Compare that to descendants of William Smith in NJ.


Hmmm. I actually work for a RR, and you can not “easily” board a moving freight train just anywhere on its route, nor is having a valid RR id enough to get you out of trouble, plus he would have to hop trains from multiple RRs to get from the NW to NJ and no single RR id would be close to allowing a person accesses to other RR properties. Besides violating several safety regulations, there are only two people expected to be on a moving freight train, and NONE outside of the locomotive.

Liked by 1 person

Thanks very much for this story. The whole DB Cooper mystery has always been so intriguing and my immediate reaction was that the photo of William Smith looks just like the sketch. There were cigarette butts that were taken into evidence if memory serves. I wonder if the FBI has ever extracted DNA from them-which could be used to compare to Smith’s descendants. However the last I heard they weren’t interested in re-opening the case, citing too many current concerns.


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