Reply: The Red Web: DB Cooper

Hello again.  Comment sections and Twitter aren't any good for longform replies, so here I am again.

"...four parachutes..."

Critical path redundancy.  When your core plan boils down to just one thing, you want spares to minimize the possibility of a catastrophic failure.  A brilliant bit of thinking in the early 70's, really.

"Unless the guy studied the area and just wanted to throw them off..."

That would make a lot of sense.  When you're basically hijacking a plane and demanding a king's ransom, that's not something you freestyle, you plan the hell out of it if you want to succeed.  Gather intelligence, come up with contingency plans, the whole nine yards.  The "he was former military" hypothesis would seem to support this, because Cooper would be familiar with that kind of mission planning.

" do they come up with these numbers?"

Figure, how much money do you want, how much of a pain in the ass do you want it to be to carry it around (hockey gear back?  backpack?  briefcase?  moving van?), and how difficult do you want it to be to spend it (very large bills, like $100 and $500 are inherently suspicious for J. Random Guy to have in his wallet)?  It's the sort of back-of-the-envelope math that someone planning what amounts to a hijacking would do.

"...he had a general idea of what he wanted to do."

I'm not so sure that's the case.  The four parachutes would suggest that he wanted a flight path that would take him over a specific area.  Going to Mexico City was never his goal at all; a red herring a worst.  He wanted to go over a specific general location to parachute into with the goods.  Else, why ask for the parachutes?  Having to re-fuel in Reno wouldn't change "bail out anyway" plans at all, if anything it would have added an additional red herring to his plans and been another advantage (which it seems it was).

"...Cooper had been tying something around his waist..."

The money?  Gearing up a parachute?  No way of knowing anymore, but the former seems likely.

"800 suspects?"

Sounds about right for an FBI investigation.  Start by casting a broad net and winnow out the ones who likely couldn't have done it.  It's way easier to have a lot of information and cut it down to size than not have enough and discover after the fact that you don't have enough.  Pretty common problem solving strategy.

"...the placard... seems to corroborate the landing zone..."

Maybe.  Cooper could have ripped it off (those placards were pretty well fastened behind lexan plates to prevent this sort of thing from happening) and thrown it off the plane before he jumped as another red herring.  It would go a long way at an altitude of 10k feet, plus factor in wind and turbulence.

"The bills were disintegrated but still bundled by rubber bands."

That's really weird.  Plain old rubber bands aren't that sturdy, and would have deteriorated rapidly because they were exposed to the elements.  UV radiation from sunlight would bleach and make them brittle in just a month or two.  Unless they were shaded (say, under water) for an extended period of time until they washed up (which seems likely, now that I think about it)>

"Is there any type of, uh, guesses as to how he spent the money..."

Maybe he had some way of laundering the money.  Perhaps he knew someone who could do something with it to get him un-marked bills, or a cashier's cheque, or something.  If someone's planning a hijacking with ransom, it seems like the kind of arrangement one might make ahead of time.  No way of knowing how much money he would have lost in doing so, though.  Maybe ditching some of the money was part of the laundering strategy?  Money in == money out correlates the amounts, which would also correlate who was doing it.

Ultimately, there's no way of knowing, this is all armchair quarterbacking.

"...the guy just went splat..."

Entirely possible.  If he came down in the river at that time of year, it's highly questionable that Cooper would have survived any appreciable amount of time.  If I had to put probabilities on it, I'd invoke Colvard's Logical Premise on it.

"Any detail about you, from your language to your name to the way you sneeze can and will be used against you."

You might find this extremely interesting:

"Maybe he comes from a long line of mountain men."

It sounds like you're kidding, but there could be some truth to it (especially in light of the "DB Cooper was former military" hypothesis).  The flight path Cooper demanded took him right over some heavily wooded areas.  Oddly specific heavily wooded areas.  It seems plausible that, during the planning phase of the hijacking, Cooper cached supplies that he would need to survive for some period of time in the woods, during winter, in a thunderstorm.  He'd have to touch down within a certain radius of such a supply cache (maybe he had multiple caches, there's no way of knowing), bundle his canopy (which he could have plausibly used in the construction of an emergency shelter, perhaps as insulation), get to the cache before dropping from exposure, and get himself set up for some period of time.  In such an event there would be no way of knowing how long he'd planned to hide out in the woods or what kind of supplies he'd have to set himself up, and eventually hike out to get on with his life.  If he was former military, Cooper would have had the survival training for just such a situation.

We also don't know what he had in his pockets, hidden in his briefcase, or even what could have been hidden inside parts of the bomb.  For all we know he could have had just enough survival equipment to get to an equipment cache (definitely not get out of the woods or the river with the clothing he was wearing).

" seems to indicate where his plans kinda came apart."

No plan survives first contact with the enemy.  It seems reasonable to state that Cooper was smart enough to understand this given the rest of his planning.  Plus, when any plan encounters unforseen circumstances, playing it cool is the best way to handle it.  "Calm people live, tense people die," as Adam Savage put it.

"And, he obviously didn't plan for a refueling stop..."

I don't think that was part of the plan at all.  Jumping out of the plane was the plan (otherwise, why ask for four parachutes?)

"It seems like the back end of this plan was kinda just, ''I got this, I'll wing it, I got the idea goin' on...''"

Maybe, maybe not.  One could make the argument that meticulously planning the first half and then having a general idea of the second half would throw off the LEOs because they'd be expecting an accomplice, a hidden vehicle, what have you.. in other words, the LEOs would be playing chess and Cooper would be playing checkers.  In the early 70's that would be an ideal strategy.

"..and he bought a house with cash a few months after the hijacking."

Buying houses in cash is a time-tested way of laundering money.  Drug cartels do it all the time.

There's another possible DB Cooper: Walter R. Reca of Oscoda, MI.

Was he legit?  No way of knowing.

Anyway, thanks for the Red Web podcast, keep up the great work!

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