DB Cooper Flight Path Riddle
By ERIC ULIS
For quite some time I have noted that there appears to be a major mistake in the FBI’s version of the DB Cooper flight path (NOTE: The flight path was actually plotted by the Air Force and presented to the FBI after the skyjacking). I’ve said many times that someone, made a mistake somewhere, somehow at some time.
By way of analyzing the drift distance of a placard that tore off from the hijacked airliner that was later found, the Tena Bar money find spot, interviewing Clifford Ammerman—the air traffic controller for Flight 305 and the chase planes—reviewing accounts of the believed flight path as discussed by Captain Bill Scott at Ralph Himmelsbach’s retirement party, and considering second-hand information from a former Northwest Orient stewardess—Catherine—who stated that she heard that Captain Scott mentioned that he deliberately flew 305 west of Portland to avoid major population given the prospect of a bomb onboard, I have determined that the FBI Flight Path map is likely off by approximately seven miles at one point. This conclusion is also supported by a close examination of the FBI Flight Path map which depicts very erratic movements on the part of the airliner including, among other things, an exceptionally sharp turn around the west end of PDX that appears unlikely.
All of these things and more ultimately led me to conclude that the FBI Flight Path is flawed during the critical portion of DB Cooper’s flight when he jumped. Furthermore, that this error therefore led to an incorrect FBI search area which would explain why nothing has ever been found in the search area—a fact that would appear to be highly unlikely if Cooper had actually landed in that region.
I have also pondered at length how it is that the Air Force arrived at the plotted flight path that they presented to the FBI on November 26, 1971. I have found this very disturbing because the physical evidence and witness testimony clearly contradicts the official flight path. Yet the radar plots from the Air Force were apparently derived somehow. Simply put, it didn’t add up.
That said, I have a theory that may explain what happened and solve this riddle.
Perhaps the FBI Flight Path depicts not the path of Flight 305, rather it depicts the path of the two US Air Force F-106 chase planes dispatched from McChord Air Force Base.
It appears that the Air Force plots relate to their own jets which were apparently linked via SAGE radar that seamlessly merged data between Air Force radar installations and their strike jets. Furthermore, it appears that the individual at the Air Force who was tasked with plotting the flight path didn’t realize that the plots being utilized were actually from their own jets and not the airliner. Or perhaps they did realize this but failed to understand that utilizing these plots would be problematic. Regardless, I have seen similar errors in a number of other areas during this investigation.
Consider that the F-106s were having a difficult time flying as slow as the airliner. This necessitated a constant series of S-turns and multiple 360-degree turns. It was for this reason that a T-33 was dispatched from PDX—it could safely fly slower.
The F-106s, having to “bleed off speed and distance,” may also account for the “missing minute” at 20:04 as noted on the yellow FBI Flight Path map. Indeed, if the strike jets implemented a 360-degree turn or large, time-consuming, S-turn at this point it would explain where the missing minute went.
Also, consider that the T-33 was pulled in behind 305 about 10 miles north of PDX, according to Ammerman. This means that the T-33 and the F-106s would have been about 15 miles north of PDX at this point—coincidentally at about the exact time that Cooper jumped. Importantly, Ammerman stated that at the time the T-33 swung in behind 305—at five miles behind and 11,000 feet—he had the F-106s climb to 20,000 feet and veer to the east 10 miles. This would explain why the Western Flight Path—the path that the evidence and witness testimony indicates was the actual path of Flight 305—is typically considered to be about 10 miles west of the FBI flight path.
Moreover, we see with the FBI Flight Path that it veers to the east at 8:12. This would have been the time at which the F-106s started to veer east—again, coincidentally at about the same time that Cooper actually jumped.
Keep in mind, just because the F-106s were trailing 305 does not mean that they were literally right behind the airliner. Indeed, they we’re flying a constant series of S-turns that swung the jets several miles from side-to-side.
It is also worth noting that the FBI Flight Path is best described as erratic from 8:12 on as it turns southwest over Vancouver, curves around PDX, heads out over downtown Portland, and ultimately south to Eugene. According to Ammerman, 305 flew in a straight line from a point somewhat east of Kelso to a point south of Portland where it then headed straight to Eugene. Arguably, the erratic flight path depicted on the FBI map is not at all consistent with Ammerman’s testimony. On the other hand, it is consistent with the testimony regarding the F-106s which regularly needed to bleed off airspeed and distance. Simply put, the only jets flying erratically that night were the F-106s. Therefore, it seems entirely possible that the erratic flight path depicted on the FBI Flight Path map is actually that of the F-106s and not 305.
Furthermore, it has been referenced that the FBI Flight Path shows a very sharp turn to the left as it rounds PDX. Additionally, it has been noted that this turn would have been nearly impossible for 305 to make. This sharp turn was not made by the slow lumbering 727; rather it was made by the very capable F-106s.
As all four jets continued south and approached Eugene, the T-33 and F-106s were turned back around and headed north because of low fuel. At this point there was an apparent merging of the correct radar data as 305 approached Oakland Center airspace.
This theory explains the data used to craft the FBI Flight Path, explains the actual flight path of 305 and answers a lot of other questions related to the “missing minute,” erratic flight path, sharp turn at PDX, and much more as it pertains to the evidence. In totality, this theory ultimately explains how DB Cooper managed to avoid capture. Simply put, the authorities were looking in the wrong area.