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Robin Hood, an Oregon trip and D.B. Cooper

September 11, 2011|By LLOYD WATERS

Before my flight to Portland, Ore., last week, I caught an old Robin Hood movie on TV. In this episode, the Sheriff of Nottingham was having an archery contest and one of the best archers had just put an arrow into the bull’s-eye. Next up was Robin Hood, and because of his keen archery skills, his shot would split the arrow already in the bull’s-eye and he would be declared the winner

Robin Hood was, indeed, a very special outlaw.

I’m not sure whether D.B. Cooper is in the same category as Robin Hood, but folks in Dargan think he is a pretty interesting thief.

Consider a few things from that Nov. 24, 1971, hijacking of Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 from Portland to Seattle.

A gentleman who assumed the name of a character (D.B. Cooper) from a 1970s French comic book bought a ticket on this flight and gave his name as Dan Cooper.

Once in flight, he lit a cigarette and calmly ordered a bourbon and soda before delivering a message to a stewardess that he had a bomb.

D.B. Cooper was a well-dressed individual, was most polite, and submitted a request to trade the plane and passengers for two back parachutes and two front parachutes, and $200,000 in $20 bills. Otherwise, he would detonate the bomb.

Afterwards, he ordered another bourbon and soda, and seemed to remain calm throughout the entire ordeal.

The plane had 36 passengers and a total of 42 people on board. Dan Cooper was sitting in seat 18C.

I sometimes request this seat when I am flying.

Once the plane landed in Seattle, the passengers were released and Dan Cooper received the parachutes and $200,000 in $20 bills.

According to weather reports, as the plane took flight once again and headed south, a heavy rainstorm occurred.

At about 8 p.m., the rear air stair apparatus of the plane was activated. What exactly happened next is anyone’s guess.

We know this for certain. Dan Cooper, with his parachutes presumably in place, jumped out of the airplane with the $200,000 in a heavy rainstorm.

Now, I don’t know about you, and I’m not real sure about me, but I have to tell you I would have given Dan Cooper a $200,000 IOU just for the story as it unfolded.

What sort of man would put forth such a plan of uncertainty with such calculated confidence and jeopardize his own life by this hijacking and subsequent leap from a plane in total darkness in a rainstorm?

How exactly could you remain so calm enjoying a cigarette and a glass of bourbon and soda before your leap? I don’t think a few bourbons would deliver that much confidence to me.

It is the only unsolved hijacking in U.S. history, and there are more than 60 volumes of investigative reports that have been collected since the incident.

In 1980, some of the packets of $20 bills totaling $5,800 were found by an 8-year-old boy near the Columbia River. Was it part of a plan gone amiss or was it conveniently planted to throw investigators off course?

As I flew over Oregon last week, the story of D.B. Cooper intrigued me. After I landed in Portland and drove to the northern part of the state, I thought of DB’s jump from the airplane and the wilderness of the Northwest.

If this gentleman successfully escaped with the loot, I tip my hat to him. He has captured a small part of our intriguing minds, maybe just like Robin Hood.

Whether he needed the money for himself or someone else will never be known, but for sure he had “grit.”

Maybe he didn’t survive the leap from the airplane, as the FBI suspects. Then again, maybe he did, and made his way to Dargan and lived happily ever after.


Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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