dw9115
Topic Author
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D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Wed Dec 14, 2005 10:10 am

I have heard from several people that Boeing redesigned the 727's rear stairs so they could not open in flight anymore after D.B. Cooper successfully jumped out of that Northwest Orient 727 with $200,000 in 1971. Does anyone know if this is true or not?

If you do not know who D.B. Copper is here is some info on him.
The particulars of D.B. Cooper's clever airborne crime and daredevil getaway have been pondered, picked over and recapitulated for three decades now.

In 1971, D.B. Cooper hijacked and threatened to blow up an airliner, extorted $200,000 from its owner, Northwest Orient, then leaped from the airborne 727 with 21 pounds of $20 bills strapped to his torso.

He was never seen again—dead or alive. The crime was perfect if he lived, perfectly crazy if he didn't.

In either case, D.B. Cooper's nom de crime—no one knows his real name—may be the most recognized alias among western felons since Jack the Ripper.

Everyone from dour G-men to giddy amateur sleuths have pored over the details, hoping to wheedle a resolution out of some overlooked aspect, as though a clue concealed in the holdup's hieroglyph of facts might lead to an a-ha!, a la Inspector Clouseau.

Yet the case remains unsolved more than 30 years later, and D. B. Cooper has become the Bigfoot of crime, evading one of the most extensive and expensive American manhunts of the 20th century. The whereabouts of the man (or his remains) is one of the great crime mysteries of our time.

Of course, the annals of wrongdoing are stuffed with titillating unsolved cases, from London's notorious ripper in the 1880s to the Black Dahlia murder of an aspiring actress in Los Angeles in 1947 to the befuddling murder—and muddled investigation—of little Jon Benet Ramsey in 1997 in Boulder, Colo.

But D.B. Cooper's crime was different. First, no innocent bystander was injured, although law enforcers argue that he put several dozen lives at risk.

There was modest collateral damage to Northwest Orient's bottom line, and the FBI's swollen ego was bruised to the bone. Cooper pulled his buccaneering swipe in the twilight of the 47-year tenure of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who died not long after the hijacking. The director no doubt went to his grave with teeth gritted over his agency's inability, in this case, to get their man.

Cooper's crime also was unusual in that it helped rally critical support for sweeping air travel security initiatives, including passenger screening. Until D. B. Cooper's skydive, it was entirely possible to walk aboard a jet carrying a bomb.

Most law-abiders react with revulsion to violent criminals, with disgust to extortionists, and with a tsk-tsk to the preponderate larcenies that fill crime blotters in police stations across America.

Yet Cooper induced more smiles than frowns.

Hijackings became more violent and less palatable as the 1970s wore on, and the destruction of September 11, 2001, makes any such act seem evil.

But D. B. Cooper's crime was of its time, the early 1970s, when antisocial behavior had cache. Many Americans commended his moxie. He was celebrated in a song, film and books. He managed to tweak J. Edgar Hoover's nose and finagle a bag of loot from a big corporation. He was Robin Hood for tie-dyed longhairs—and not a few wearers of more traditional attire.

But did D. B. Cooper get away with it? No one can say for certain. We do know that he could have survived the dangerous nighttime skydive because Cooper's caper, like a crime science experiment, was replicated with complete success by a copycat aerial clip artist just months later. That hijacker hit the ground safely, although the mimic ultimately paid dearly. The copycat case also spawned a controversial theory about the fate of Dan Cooper.

Coincidentally, Cooper himself probably copied a similar hijacking that occurred two weeks before his endeavor.

Many others have tried variations on the airline extortion technique—generally with less success. Some have "splattered," as law enforcers like to say. FBI investigators believe Cooper probably met that fate—a fatal kiss of the ground. But their opinion is far from unanimous.

Books by a half-dozen authors, including three separate tomes by ex-FBI agents, have posited theories—some serious, some spurious—about what happened to Cooper. Several men have stepped forward claiming to be Cooper, although none convincingly so. Some believe Cooper is alive and well and living on a beach in Mexico. Others say he slipped back into an obscure American life and grins like a Cheshire cat at premature reports of his demise.
 
EMBQA
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Wed Dec 14, 2005 10:15 am

It is true. Back on the belly there is a guide vane that turns and locks out the airstairs when the aircraft is in flight. I think I heard they call it the Cooper Vane.
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
 
OttoPylit
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Wed Dec 14, 2005 11:14 am

I was once told that he would pop up at soon as the statute of limitations wore out on him, which is usually twenty years. After that time, you could walk right out, say you did the crime, and nothing could be done. And I was waiting, but looked into it, and among the the things that does not have a statute of limitations on it, along with murder is "air piracy." So as long as the air piracy statute of limitations is in effect, Dan Cooper, if alive, will never be heard from again.

And yes, there is a little piece of metal on the outside of the rear airstairs of any aircraft after then, not just the 727, but any aircraft with rear airstairs(DC-9, MD-88 equip) that locks into place once the airflow flows past it and they cannot be opened. Once the airplane lands and slows down, the Cooper Vane turns back and the stairs can be lowered. Little ingenious and simple piece of metal it is.


OttoPylit
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JAFA
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Wed Dec 14, 2005 11:19 am

The 727 wasn't redesigned, a simple modification was made to prevent the airstairs from being lowered in-flight. It was a simple piece of metal that was moved by the airstream, which held the stairs up if soemone tried to lower them.
 
dw9115
Topic Author
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Wed Dec 14, 2005 11:22 am

Does anyone know if Boeing made the changes on their own or was there pressure from the FAA or the Airlines to make the change?
 
OPNLguy
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Wed Dec 14, 2005 11:36 am

Quoting Dw9115 (Reply 4):
Does anyone know if Boeing made the changes on their own or was there pressure from the FAA or the Airlines to make the change?

Back in those pre-TSA days, it was probably done via an emergency airworthiness directive (AD). The Cooper vane wasn't all that exotic an installation--it was actually an elegantly simple fix, and it didn't take all that long to equip one's fleet.
ALL views, opinions expressed are mine ONLY and are NOT representative of those shared by Southwest Airlines Co.
 
aeroweanie
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Wed Dec 14, 2005 3:45 pm

The vane can be removed for special purposes:

 
broke
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Wed Dec 14, 2005 11:35 pm

The original vane was developed by the Eastern Airlines engineering department. It is a pivoting spring loaded vane, the airload overcomes the spring load and causes the vane to rotate. A plate at the base of the vane blocks the airstairs from being opened in flight. On the ground the spring causes the vane to pivot back and the plate moves away from the airstairs.
 
phollingsworth
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Wed Dec 14, 2005 11:49 pm

Quoting OttoPylit (Reply 2):
And yes, there is a little piece of metal on the outside of the rear airstairs of any aircraft after then, not just the 727, but any aircraft with rear airstairs(DC-9, MD-88 equip) that locks into place once the airflow flows past it and they cannot be opened.

I never saw the vane on the MD-88s I work on. It also doesn't seem to make much sense since you just arm the aft door and drop the tailcone to exit in those instances.
 
ltbewr
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Thu Dec 15, 2005 12:31 am

I would also suspect that during later production runs or at heavy MX, some sort of electrical/mechanical lock was also put in to prevent the stair door use while the a/c is moving.
As to the fate of D.B. Cooper, several years ago, some people found a bundle of money along a riverbank in Washington State that was probably from his hijacking. This suggests he didn't survive or at least didn't have the money with him.
 
Tod
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Thu Dec 15, 2005 12:36 am

Quoting Dw9115 (Thread starter):
with $200,000 in 1971.

A common misconseption. It was actually $250,000 according to my Dad. He was a mechanic at NW and loaded the money that the FBI gave him into a NW carry-on bag.

Tod
 
EMBQA
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Thu Dec 15, 2005 5:59 am

Quoting Tod (Reply 10):
A common misconseption. It was actually $250,000 according to my Dad. He was a mechanic at NW and loaded the money that the FBI gave him into a NW carry-on bag.

Much of that money was later recovered in the early 1980's when it was found in very poor condition along a river bank in the 'drop area'. The numbers were traced to those put into the delivery bag and given to DB Cooper.
"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog"
 
DBCooper
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Thu Dec 15, 2005 6:39 am

Good topic...and no comment!!


- DBC
 
legion242
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Thu Dec 15, 2005 6:45 am

How did they get the money to him? Did the a/c land and then take off again? Where did they land to give him the money?
Don't make me release the monkeys!!
 
SlamClick
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Thu Dec 15, 2005 7:05 am

Not the best of illustrations but here are two shots I could find.

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Werner Horvath
View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Gregg Stansbery


The vane is located to the left of the stairway opening, just about next to the top stair. Very simple; spring-loaded open as you see it here, but held locked by airflow at any flying speed.

By the way, the name the hijacker used was "Dan Cooper" just one of a long list of things the press got wrong that got woven into the fabric of history.

If no one has mentioned it, a substantial amount of the money was recovered from the banks of the Columbia down near Kelso Washington. The likely location of his departure from the airplane was just north of Mount St. Helens, so if he landed there he has been buried under maybe more than a hundred feet of volcanic rock since 1980. The location where the money was found is inconclusive; it could have washed down the Toutle or Lewis rivers or even down the Columbia itself from some point southeast of St. Helens.
Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
 
Tod
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Thu Dec 15, 2005 7:49 am

Quoting Legion242 (Reply 13):
How did they get the money to him?

The money was handed to him in a NW carry-on bag at SEA by an FBI agent.

The FBI proposed having the agent shot Cooper with a gun inside the bag with the agent's hand on the gun via a hole cut in the end. NW vetoed this plan.

Quoting SlamClick (Reply 14):
The likely location of his departure from the airplane was just north of Mount St. Helens

One of the possible location clues that I've never heard the press mention is that he took six NW box lunches with him. Anyone find any plastic NW silverware laying around?

Tod
 
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fr8mech
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Thu Dec 15, 2005 9:02 am

Quoting LTBEWR (Reply 9):
I would also suspect that during later production runs or at heavy MX, some sort of electrical/mechanical lock was also put in to prevent the stair door use while the a/c is moving

Nope, the door is unlocked mechanically and free falls to the open position. There is no lockout installed. The Copper Lock is all there is.
When seconds count...the police are minutes away.
Unless it's expressly prohibited, it's allowed.
You are not entitled to a public safe space.
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duke
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Thu Dec 15, 2005 7:03 pm

Quoting Tod (Reply 15):
The money was handed to him in a NW carry-on bag at SEA by an FBI agent.

The FBI proposed having the agent shot Cooper with a gun inside the bag with the agent's hand on the gun via a hole cut in the end. NW vetoed this plan.

Hmm. Couldn´t they have just carried out the plan but substituted a stun gun or similar instrument for the kind of gun that kills?
 
Tod
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Fri Dec 16, 2005 12:38 am

Quoting Duke (Reply 17):
but substituted a stun gun or similar instrument

Remember, the was over thirty years ago and the whole situation was evolving rapidly. My Dad told me the things were so hectic that when the FBI agent arrived with the cash that he was laughing because the bank manager just handed over the money and he didn't sign anything. A couple of quick "good time to retire overseas" jokes then back to the business at hand.

Tod
 
RIXrat
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Fri Dec 16, 2005 8:10 am

Strange that you would mention D. B. Cooper after such a long time. At the time of the hijacking I was Canadian News Manager for United Press International (UPI) when it was still in its glory days.

Anyway, the Cooper case provided an all-nighter because we didn't know where he would want to go. Bureaus in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver were alerted to keep a close watch. Then, if I'm not mistaken after all these years, UPI had a pix of something being delivered to him at SEA. It was probably the money and not the burgers.

They took off again, then Cooper ordered the lowering of the back exit and then he jumped. Everyone is correct that nobody has since heard of D. B. Cooper since that time, but some of the money has washed up and has been collected with the proper serial numbers.
 
MxCtrlr
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Fri Dec 16, 2005 4:49 pm

I was staying at a hotel overlooking SEA that day and remember it well. At a tender age (OK, I was a young teen at that time) I asked my Dad why a basically naked man was walking up the stairs of an aircraft. Didn't know at that time what was happening until after the 727 took off.

MxCtrlr  bouncy 
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duke
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Fri Dec 16, 2005 7:48 pm

In the 1990s, a man by the name of Duane L Weber, who had a past and looked somewhat like an aged Dan Cooper admitted to his wife on his deathbed that he had been the hijacker. There are reasons to believe this is true but it has not been proven yet.
 
Tod
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Sat Dec 17, 2005 12:01 am

Quoting RIXrat (Reply 19):
They took off again, then Cooper ordered the lowering of the back exit and then he jumped

Cooper original requested that the plane take off with the stairs down.
Boeing engineers were consulted and responded with a pretty obvious determination that the aircraft would be damaged upon rotation.

Tod
 
Boeing Nut
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Sat Dec 17, 2005 1:52 am

Quoting DBCooper (Reply 12):
Good topic...and no comment!!


- DBC

 laughing 
I'm not a real aeronautical engineer, I just play one on Airliners.net.
 
aeroweanie
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RE: D.B. Cooper And Boeing Redesigning The 727 Over Him

Sat Dec 17, 2005 2:45 am

This is the vane:

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