MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS
On November 24, 1971, 50 years ago today, which was also the day before Thanksgiving, a passenger whose ticket was booked under the name Dan Cooper boarded a Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 at Portland International Airport. The flight was scheduled to be a quick stint north to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The plan changed shortly after takeoff.
After ordering a drink, Cooper revealed to a flight attendant that he had a bomb and demanded $200,000 and parachutes once the plane reached Sea-Tac Airport.
His demands were met, and Cooper’s fellow passengers safely disembarked. He then instructed some of the crew to fly him to Mexico City with a fuel stop in Reno, Nevada. However, when the plane was flying over Southwest Washington, Cooper parachuted out of the plane with the ransom money and vanished.
He was never seen or heard from again. Cooper’s identity has also never been confirmed.
In 1980, there was a break in the case — kind of. Along the Columbia River in Vancouver, a boy discovered $5,800 of damaged twenties. Investigators confirmed the bills were from the Cooper ransom. But the lead didn’t go any further. No more of the cash from the hijacking has ever been found.
The $200,000 ransom Cooper received would be equivalent to $1,352,513.45 today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Five years ago, the FBI concluded its investigation into Cooper. The bureau announced in July 2016 that it was ending “one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in its history.”
While the loose ends remain, Cooper is a fixture in Pacific Northwest lore. He is also finding hos way into the pop culture again as a new movie is being made called “Nod If You Understand” and recently The “Loki” television series on Disney+ included a scene that showed Loki was actually Cooper in its premiere episode.
It was imaginative and funny all at the same time — but I wondered if the young audiences knew who Cooper was and why some people see him as a bit of a folk hero even though he would be considered a pirate or even a terrorist today.
But the more I have studied the case, I have come up with an idea that there may be a connection between Cooper and Operation Northwoods.
Operation Northwoods was a proposed false flag operation against the Cuban government that originated within the U.S. Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States government in 1962. The proposals called for the Central Intelligence Agency or other U.S. government operatives to both stage and actually commit acts of terrorism against American military and civilian targets, blaming them on the Cuban government, and using it to justify a war against Cuba.
All of this, of course, is all side stories to the JFK assassination – links to Cuba and the hijack wave America experienced during Vietnam – arguably, the last hijacker of that period was none other than D.B. Cooper… with what I know about the D.B. Cooper case I can make the argument that it was an “inside job.”
I am not saying that the crew was responsible or the idea that Kenny Christensen an employee of Northwest Airlines is the suspect — but that it was an inside job that was conducted under the Operation Northwoods umbrella.
DB Cooper was an agent — that was asked to conduct a Black Ops project for the government and during the process went rogue because it was his giving the finger to those in power.
In my line of work, there is always the temptation to view great power, and great evil, as a monolith. There is an assumption that direction and movement require cooperation, and that the corridors of power in the Pentagon hum with the activity of bee hove. A million minds with one thought and one goal, working with unspoken bonds of purpose.
A less flattering, but more accurate, metaphor might be a swarm of rats in a sewer.
Yes, they’re all headed in roughly the same direction, and yes they’re all making the same noises, but there’s no organization, no long-term thinking. Temporarily aligned self-interest is not the same as working together. Ruthless opportunism is not the same as a plan. To us it seems a collective, but to the rats it’s a race.
This is how I see the DB Cooper case — the rat in the sewer of the alphabet agency went rogue — and he was supposed to play by the rules. DB Cooper was there to test the waters — to see how far a hijacking could go — and with the great amount of charm and know-how pulled off the perfect crime all with the help of the FBI.
For several years during the during the Vietnam Era, hijackings were astonishingly routine in American airspace. Desperate and deluded souls commandeered over 130 planes between 1968 and 1972, often at a pace of one or more per week.
Most Skyjackers believed that upon reaching Havana, their sole destination during the mid-to-late 1960s, they would be greeted as revolutionary heroes.
But though Fidel Castro welcomed the wayward flights in order to humiliate the United States and earn hard currency because the airlines had to pay the Cuban government an average of $7,500 to retrieve each plane—he had little but disdain for the hijackers themselves, whom he considered undesirable malcontents.
By July 1968, the situation had become dire enough to warrant a Senate hearing.
The FAA was represented at the hearing by a functionary named Irving Ripp, whose testimony was devoid of even the slightest hint of hope. “It’s an impossible problem short of searching every passenger,” Ripp testified. “If you’ve got a man aboard that wants to go to Havana, and he has got a gun, that’s all he needs.”
Senator George Smathers of Florida countered Ripp’s gloom by raising the possibility of using metal detectors or X-ray machines to screen all passengers. He noted that these relatively new technologies were already in place at several maximum-security prisons and sensitive military facilities, where they were performing admirably.
But Ripp dismissed the senator’s suggestion as certain to have “a bad psychological effect on passengers … It would scare the pants off people. Plus people would complain about invasion of privacy.” None of the senators made any further inquiries about electronic screening.
Two weeks after the Senate hearing, a deranged forklift operator named Oran Richards hijacked a Delta Airlines flight. Somewhere over West Virginia, Richards jumped from his seat and pulled a pistol on the first passenger he encountered in the aisle—a man who just happened to be Senator James Eastland of Mississippi.
Though the Delta crew eventually talked Richards into surrendering in Miami, the skyjacking of a national political figure represented a dangerous new twist to the epidemic. Almost immediately the State Department proposed a novel anti-skyjacking solution: free one-way flights to Cuba for anyone who wished to go, provided they vowed never to return to the United States. But Castro refused to accept these “good riddance flights”; he had no incentive to help America curtail its skyjackings, which gave him excellent fodder for his marathon sermons against capitalist decadence.
Unwilling to spend the money necessary to weed out passengers with dark intentions, the airlines instead focused on mitigating the financial impact of skyjacking. They decided that their top priority was to avoid violence, since passenger or crew fatalities would surely generate an avalanche of bad publicity. As a result, every airline adopted policies that called for absolute compliance with all hijacker demands, no matter how peculiar or extravagant. A November 1968 memo that Eastern Air Lines circulated among its employees made clear that even minor attempts at heroism were now strictly forbidden:
“The most important consideration under the act of aircraft piracy is the safety of the lives of passengers and crew. Any other factor is secondary … In the face of an armed threat to any crew member, comply with the demands presented. Do not make an attempt to disarm, shoot out, or otherwise jeopardize the safety of the flight. Remember, more than one gunman may be on board … To sum up, going on past experience, it is much more prudent to submit to a gunman’s demands than attempt action which may well jeopardize the lives of all on board.”
As the airlines labored to make each hijacking as quick and painless as possible, the epidemic only grew worse. Eleven flights were commandeered during the first six weeks of 1969—a record pace. The hijackers included a former mental patient accompanied by his three-year-old son; a community college student armed with a can of bug spray; a Purdue University dropout with a taste for Marxist economics; and a retired Green Beret who claimed that he intended to assassinate Castro with his bare hands.
At the behest of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, the FAA formed a special anti-hijacking task force to develop possible solutions to the crisis. The group was immediately inundated with thousands of letters from concerned citizens, who recommended inventive ways to frustrate skyjackers: installing trapdoors outside cockpits, arming stewardesses with tranquilizer darts, making passengers wear boxing gloves so they couldn’t grip guns, playing the Cuban national anthem before takeoff and then arresting anyone who knew the lyrics. The most popular suggestion was for the FAA to build a mock version of José Martí International Airport in a South Florida field, so that skyjackers could be duped into thinking they had reached Havana. That idea sparked serious interest at the agency but was ultimately discarded as too expensive.
John Dailey, a task force member who also served as the FAA’s chief psychologist, began to attack the problem by analyzing the methods of past skyjackers. He pored through accounts of every single American hijacking since 1961, more than seventy cases in all and compiled a database of the perpetrators’ basic characteristics: how they dressed, where they lived, when they traveled, and how they acted around airline personnel. His research convinced him that all skyjackers involuntarily betrayed their criminal intentions while checking in for their flights.
“There isn’t any common denominator except in [the hijackers’] behavior,” he told one airline executive. “Some will be tall, some short, some will have long hair, some not, some a long nose, et cetera, et cetera. There is no way to tell a hijacker by looking at him. But there are ways to differentiate between the behavior of a potential hijacker and that of the usual air traveler.”
Dailey, who had spent the bulk of his career designing aptitude tests for the Air Force and Navy, created a brief checklist that could be used to determine whether a traveler might have malice in his heart. Paying for one’s ticket by unconventional means, for example, was considered an important tip-off. So, too, were failing to maintain eye contact and expressing an inadequate level of knowledge or concern about one’s luggage. Dailey fine-tuned his criteria so they would apply to only a tiny fraction of travelers—ideally no more than three out of every thousand. He proposed that these few “selectees” could then be checked with handheld metal detectors, away from the prying eyes of fellow passengers. Most selectees would prove guilty of nothing graver than simple eccentricity, but a small number would surely be found to be in possession of guns, knives, or incendiary devices.
In the late summer of 1969, the FAA began to test Dailey’s anti-hijacking system on Eastern Air Lines passengers at nine airports. When a man obtaining his boarding pass was judged to fit the behavioral profile, he was discreetly asked to proceed to a private area, where a federal marshal could sweep his body with a U-shaped metal detector. One of Dailey’s assistants secretly videotaped this process, so the FAA could ascertain whether travelers took offense at the intrusion.
Dailey pronounced the experiment a roaring success, noting that his profile selected only 1,268 out of 226,000 passengers; of those beckoned aside for a brief date with the metal detector, 24 were arrested on weapons or narcotics charges. More important, selectees rarely seemed to mind the extra scrutiny; when interviewed afterward, most said they were just happy to know that something was finally being done to prevent hijackings.
But there were two fatal flaws in how the FAA’s system was implemented. The first was that pilots and stewardesses were not told which of their passengers were selectees. If a hijacker claimed to have a bomb, the crew had no way of knowing whether he had been searched prior to boarding—and thus no way of determining whether his threat was a bluff. All they could do was err on the side of caution and obey the hijacker’s every command.
Then in 1971, DB Cooper’s hijacking made the headlines… and so the question is: was he a selectee gone rogue? This would explain why the FBI has in my opinion botched the investigation.
The FBI’s extensive record on DB Cooper describe him as a “white male, 5”11” -6’1″ tall, 170-175 pounds, age-mid-forties, olive complexion, brown eyes, black hair, conventional cut, parted on left.” Cooper boarded Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305, he settled in his aisle seat at the rear of the 727, lit a cigarette, and ordered a bourbon and soda. Then he handed a note to Florence Schaffner, a flight attendant. “I have a bomb in my briefcase,” it read. “I want you to sit next to me.”
Schaffner did as instructed. Cooper told her the rest of his demands: $200,000 and four parachutes, delivered on landing at Sea-Tac Airport. While police and airline staff on the ground scrambled to assemble the money and chutes, the pilots flew in circles above Seattle. Passengers were told that a minor mechanical issue had forced the plane to burn fuel, prolonging a flight that would normally take 30 minutes.
After three-and-a-half hours in the air, the 727 finally landed. Having received his money and parachutes, Cooper dismissed all 36 passengers and two of the six crew members. The plane refueled and took off for Cooper’s next requested destination: Mexico, via Reno and Yuma to refuel. During the first leg, with the crew in the cockpit, Cooper lowered the rear stairs and parachuted into a thunderstorm. He has never been found.
FBI had speculated that Cooper may have landed somewhere near Amboy not 30 miles from Portland Oregon. There was also a huge combing of the area near Ariel Washington about 20 miles northwest of Amboy.
However, upon further study I was involved with an investigation with Team Tosaw near Tena Bar – the area where a young boy found some of D.B. Cooper’s money in a Sand pit. I was of the impression that Cooper jumped from the plane between Battleground Washington and Vancouver.
In 1980, a family on a picnic found $5,880 of Cooper’s money in a bag on a Columbia River beach, near Vancouver. Some investigators believed it might have been washed down to the beach by the Washougal River. But if Cooper landed near Amboy and stashed the money bag there, there’s no way it could have naturally reached the Washougal.
It was a stormy evening in November –which if anyone knows the weather in the area the winds blowing east form the Gorge would have pushed Cooper towards and area called St. Johns Oregon – 30 -45 miles west of Amboy and Ariel.
Tena Bar is actually across the Columbia River from St. Johns. I also lived in Kenton near St. John’s and wondered if he may have landed there in the swampy area near what was once called Vanport.
So why would the FBI investigate an area some 40 miles away from a logical landing site for Cooper?
I often wondered if they knew that Cooper was one of their agents that went rogue and instead of being a selectee for the new Hijacking security detail he took advantage of the situation and made off with all of the money and apparently, all of the fame that comes with being a folk hero.
The new security system’s more fundamental weakness, was the fact that it depended entirely on the vigilance of airline ticket agents. They, rather than professional security personnel, were responsible for applying a checklist to every passenger they encountered. Over time the flight agents’ attention to detail was bound to lag as they processed thousands upon thousands of harried customers each day. It is simply human nature to grow complacent.
I believe Cooper exploited that flaw and fooled the FBI; embarrassed by the fact that one of their own turned on them – they opted to keep the story a secret and trip up any would be investigators with a puzzle piece here and another over there.
Like any other government conspiracy, the FBI provided red herrings, people who claimed they knew the identity of Cooper , or knew Cooper or even pretended to be Cooper– just like with any other government cover up from Kennedy to 911 — the stories become muddled and soon they become a product of tabloid conspiracy theory.
The deep state has evolved a long list of tactics for controlling who wears the public face of power, they also control the narrative of major events that capture the public’s imagination. Today, hijackings I am sure are at the very bottom of this list and they seem to have been an afterthought until the 911 attacks — and then they became a priority and conspiracy theorists recalled the Operation Northwoods connection and then the term False flag became the operative conclusion to what really happened.
Hijackings we have learned are hard to do, difficult to cover up, and yet out of the epidemic of hijackings The DB Cooper case is different — can we ask ourselves why?
My curiosity about the Cooper case is primarily focused on an colleague of mine William Gossett who I worked closely with in Salt Lake City when I was in my teenage years.
Gossett is one of the suspects in the Cooper case and he one of the only suspects that doesn’t get much of the spotlight, mainly because Gossett was an agency man that had many connections to the FBI, the Military and the CIA.
He often made those claims on a radio show that he did on a station in Bountiful Utah, the call letters were KCGL.
Dozens of other people who knew Gossett including family members and ex-wives, people with whom he served in the military, co-workers in the court system and law enforcement officials who knew him as a private investigator, cooperated and in many cases revealed their belief that Gossett carried an ominous secret that had something to do with the DB Cooper case. He often dropped hints about the skyjacking that some people took as merely a fascination for the topic.
Gossett, was a war hero and expert parachutist, who later changed his name to Wolfgang and became a priest — he also performed exorcisms and had a fascination with conspiracy theory and the paranormal–in fact he was one of the first people to tell me about the strange portal in the Uinta Basin that is now known as Skinwalker Ranch.
Gossett’s personal history is eye-popping and could be ripped from the pages of a spy novel. I had an opportunity to meet Galen Cook a Lawyer and investigator that told me that many of the claims that Gossett made when I knew him were true.
Galen Cook’s research, documented by official records, revealed that he was born William Pratt Gossett in San Diego in 1930, the son of a Navy commander later stationed at Pearl Harbor. At the age of 11, ‘Bill’ Gossett witnessed Japanese bombers attacking the base. In 1946 at age 16, Gossett joined the Army Air Force, then switched branches in 1954 to become a U.S. Marine.
After 10 years in the Corps, he transferred to the U.S. Army, serving one tour in Korea and two tours in Vietnam, where he earned a Purple Heart for wounds and several awards for valor. Throughout his military career, he attended dozens of elite Armed Services schools where he learned military law, fluent French — he did a tour at the U.S. embassy in France — and became a skilled survivalist and combat parachutist with hundreds of high-altitude and night jumps. He finished his career as an ROTC instructor and retired from the Army at Ft. Lewis, Wash., in 1973, less than two years after the notorious skyjacking.
Gossett returned to Utah, where he had inaugurated the ROTC program at Weber State College, and became a private detective specializing in money fraud, cults and missing persons. His biggest moment came when he assisted the FBI in rescuing a woman from the Bhagwan Rajneesh’s compound in Antelope, Oregon.
Gossett also worked for the public defender’s office in Salt Lake City, where he was well-known and respected by police and court officials including the police chief of Ogden, Utah, who said Gossett “could eat bullets and call it a meal.”
In another amazing twist to Gossett’s life, he officially changed his name to “Wolfgang” and became a priest in the Old Catholic Church, SLC Diocese, in 1988 — a move that answered, according to family members, a spiritual calling that he’d always heard.
What many people didn’t know is that Gossett had a dark side, including four failed marriages, five children and money troubles from gambling. Cook’s research places Gossett in Ogden, Utah, around the time of the skyjacking. He was an ROTC instructor making $15,000 per year, and newly separated from his wife.
Galen Cook said that Gossett chose the date for the heist because he had a week off from his Army duties.
According to Cook, Gossett took a flight from Ogden to San Francisco where he donned his Dan Cooper disguise. The name ‘Dan’ was Gossett’s inside joke. He had a brother, now deceased, named Danny. Growing up, he would always blame Danny whenever he got into trouble by declaring, “Danny did it!” The name Cooper appears to be randomly picked. Portland police mistakenly came up with the initials “D.B.” during their investigation, and the name stuck.
It would certainly be fitting that Gossett was DB Cooper– I once told an old friend Steve who also knew Gossett, you would never guess who some investigators think is DC Cooper– he did not hesitate when he said “Wolfgang Gossett.”
It would not be too far-fetched to believe that DB Cooper, the air pirate who became a priest as a good cover and then marries and buries people when he’s not out helping the FBI solve criminal cases.
He was one of theirs –he was an FBI informant, counselor and missing persons agent.
Who better to investigate missing persons then a missing person, with a new identity?
Now we can pretty well figure out why Gossett isn’t getting all the press—it is because he was one of those FBI agents that did not work and play well with his colleagues.