There have always been a lot of questions about the veracity of the FBI’s original
flight path. Furthermore, as time has gone by and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
requests have opened up once confidential FBI files regarding the NORJAK
investigation, the evidence that the FBI’s flight path and drop zone were wrong has
started to stack up.
In addition to the information that has come from FBI files, there is also the
realization that nothing has ever been found in the original drop zone. Also, the fact that
the $5,800 was found on Tena Bar, also implies that the FBI flight path was wrong.
Consider this: Cooper jumped from the jet carrying two parachute rigs, a bag
containing 10,000 $20 bills, an attaché case, and everything he was wearing. Not a
single piece of any of these items has ever been found in the original FBI drop zone—or
for that matter, the revised FBI drop zone. In fact, with the exception of the $5,800 found
on Tena Bar, none of these items has been found anywhere.
The fact that no evidence has ever been found in the FBI drop zone, serves as a
measure of evidence, in and of itself, that the drop zone was wrong. Furthermore, the
fact that nothing has been found beyond the $5,800 indicates that Cooper did not die in
the jump. It stands to reason, if Cooper was a no-pull and hit the ground at 122 miles
per hour, someone would have found something, somewhere, at sometime.
The $5,800 discovered at Tena Bar tells its own story. It serves as a material
piece of evidence providing an indication of where Cooper was, at some point in time,
after the jump. Again, the presumption is that he survived which, given absolutely no evidence to the contrary, seems almost certain. Additionally, when you consider that
several copycats have successfully jumped from 727s since Cooper, and that all have
survived, one must ask how Cooper was any different.
Simply put, the Tena Bar money find also indicates that the presumed flight path
the FBI was working with was wrong. Consider that we’re not talking about a significant
error, only about eight miles which at 200 miles per hour is not a lot, but is significant if
you’re trying to find someone or something.
By far the best, unbiased and fact-based, analysis of the flight path comes from
Robert Nicholson. Nicholson is a retired aeronautical engineer specializing in flight
dynamics, who also happens to be a general aviation pilot and someone who has made
a small number of parachute jumps. He also happens to be an expert on the DB Cooper
What follows is a detailed and technical analysis of the flight path by Robert
Nicholson, including some of his conclusions. For those not interested in pouring
through the analysis over the next 23 pages (please go directly to Page 72), I’ll
summarize by stating it concludes that Cooper jumped at 8:12 PM very near Tena Bar.
Flight Path Analysis by Robert Nicholson
In the almost 45 years since the Cooper hijacking, GPS based navigation
systems have become standard equipment for airliners, general aviation and business
aircraft, and many private and sports aircraft as well.
With the advent of GPS systems, navigation systems based on magnetic
indicators, such as the common "whiskey compass", can be eliminated. The GPS
systems can be set to indicate True North, instead of Magnetic North, and all enroute
navigation is then simplified and becomes more accurate since it reduces or eliminates
the errors that are inherent to VOR type systems. Also magnetic variation and compass
deviation are no longer a consideration and can be ignored. That is, navigating from
one highly accurate GPS fix to another using a great circle route, even for relatively
short distances, is much more accurate over the entire route than that which can be
achieved with VOR systems, especially as distance from the VOR increases.
Since the NWA 305 hijacking on November 24, 1971, the datum for the maps
used in aircraft navigation have been updated to World Geodetic System 1984
(WGS84), for longitude and latitude, and to the North American Vertical Datum 1988
(NAVD88), for sea level references. In the Portland, Oregon and Vancouver,
Washington area, the changes were quite small and had no particular impact on aircraft
There is no indication that any of the navigational aids or intersections used by
the NWA 305 airliner on its flight to Reno have been moved from their 1971
geographical locations. However, several of the aids, and especially the intersections,
have been renamed. Consequently, the current GPS fixes for all the navigational aids
and intersections will be used in this analysis. The coordinates for the aids are
presented on the current IFR Low Altitude Enroute Charts and the coordinates for the
intersections can be found in other FAA sources and elsewhere. The coordinate values used here appear to have been determined by using Differential-GPS Systems and are,
therefore, extremely accurate.
It should be specifically understood that the geographical relationships between
the navigational aids and intersections today is exactly the same as in 1971. But again,
some of the names have been changed.
The following navigational aids and intersections, all on V-23, are used in this
1) SEATTLE VORTAC; Latitude: 47 degrees, 26.12 minutes, North; Longitude: 122
degrees, 18.58 minutes, West; 354 feet above sea level.
2) MALAY (formerly Mayfield) Intersection; Latitude: 46 degrees, 25.37 minutes, North;
Longitude 122 degrees, 45.65 minutes, West.
3) BATTLEGROUND (formerly Portland) VORTAC; Latitude: 45 degrees, 44.87
minutes, North; Longitude: 122 degrees, 35.49 minutes, West; 253 feet above sea level.
4) CANBY Intersection; Latitude: 45 degrees, 18.63 minutes, North; Longitude: 122
degrees, 45.89 minutes, West.
5) EUGENE VORTAC; Latitude: 44 degrees, 7.25 minutes, North; Longitude: 123
degrees, 13.37 minutes, West; 364 feet above sea level.
6) ROUGE VALLEY (formerly Medford) VORTAC; Latitude 42 degrees, 28.77 minutes,
North; Longitude: 122 degrees, 54.78 minutes, West; 2083 feet above sea level.
7) FORT JONES VORTAC; Latitude: 41 degrees, 26.98 minutes, North; Longitude: 122
degrees, 48.39 minutes, West; 4900 feet above sea level.
No precise location for the airliner is ever given in the Seattle ATC radio
transcripts during the southbound flight. However, the very first thing in the Oakland
ATC radio transcripts is the phone talk between Seattle and Oakland controllers as they
coordinated the handoff to the Oakland Center. This handoff was accomplished at 9:45
PM PST and the airliner was one nautical mile south of the Fort Jones VORTAC at that
time. This position is the southernmost one considered in this analysis.
Great circle distances and True Courses between the above navigational aids
and fixes are as follows:
1) SEATTLE VORTAC to MALAY Intersection; 63.50 Nautical Miles, 197.09 degrees
True Course departing and 196.76 degrees True Course arriving.
2) MALAY Intersection to BATTLEGROUND VORTAC; 41.11 Nautical Miles, 170.07
degrees True Course departing and 170.19 degrees True Course arriving.
3) BATTLEGROUND VORTAC to EUGENE VORTAC; 101.24 Nautical Miles, 195.58
degrees True Course departing and 195.14 degrees True Course arriving.
4) EUGENE VORTAC to ROGUE VALLEY VORTAC; 99.4 Nautical Miles, 172.07
degrees True Course departing and 172.28 degrees True Course arriving.
5) ROGUE VALLEY VORTAC to FORT JONES VORTAC; 61.97 Nautical Miles, 175.57
degrees True Course departing and 175.64 degrees True Course arriving.
Coordinates and distances for other points will be discussed and used when
After taking off from Seattle at 7:36 PM PST, November 24, 1971, NWA 305 was
under control of the Seattle ATC Center until it was handed off to the Oakland ATC
Center at 9:45 PM PST.
Both the Seattle and Oakland ATC Centers prepared transcripts of the radio
conversations between the airliner and their respective facility. The Oakland transcripts
include the phone conversations between the controllers as well as the radio
The Oakland and Reno transcripts are exactly what transcripts should be. They
are included in the FBI SE-164-81 file at pages 201 thru 225.
Unfortunately, there is nothing - repeat nothing- in the Seattle radio transcripts
that permit the actual determination of the location of the airliner between 7:36 PM and
9:45 PM. They are included in the FBI SE-164-81 file at pages 194 thru 200.
In addition to the air traffic control radio communications, contact was maintained
with the airliner by NWA offices in Seattle and Minneapolis (NWA Headquarters) through
the Aeronautical Radio Incorporated (ARINC) system. It must be understood that ARINC
is a private communications company serving the airline industry and is not involved
with air traffic control.
ARINC communicates with airliners by radio and then typically passes that
information to the correct airline location using a teletypewriter system. During the
hijacking, a telephone connection was set up so that the NWA/FBI personnel could
listen to the airliner's voice radio contacts with the ARINC facility. In addition, the ARINC
facility transmitted these communications through their teletype system.
ARINC personnel have told Fred Poyner, WSHM (Washington State History
Museum), and myself that when a radio message is received the ARINC personnel
have to "format" that message prior to sending it through their teletype system. When
the teletype message is sent, the last line of that message includes the time of
transmission. So when listening to a voice transmission on a phone patch, there will be
a several minute delay before that same message is received through the teletype
system. This delay time is of great importance in the following discussions.
The FBI recorded some of the information coming through the ARINC system in
a 17-page document that will be referred to here as the "FBI Notes". This document is
available online at several sites. The FBI Notes state that at 7:40 PM PST the airliner
was 14 DME miles south of the Seattle VORTAC on V-23. The document also states
that at 7:43 PM PST the airliner was 19 DME miles south of the Seattle VORTAC on
The document also states that the airliner was over the Eugene VORTAC at 8:52
PM PST and over Medford (now Rouge Valley) at 9:28 PM PST. It does not specifically
state that this was the Medford VORTAC.
Copies of some of the ARINC teletype messages are in a document in the FBI
SE-164-81 file at pages 89 thru 105. Page 103 of that document contains copies of the
remarks made in the FBI Notes about distances south of the Seattle VORTAC. For the
14 DME remark, the FBI lists receiving it at 7:40 PM and the teletypewriter copy of the
same message indicates that it was sent at 7:42 PM. For the 19 DME remark, the FBI
lists receiving it at 7:43 PM and the teletypewriter copy of the same message indicates that it was sent at 7:45 PM. For these two messages, the teletypewriter copy was sent
two minutes after the voice message was received.
The FBI notes also include an entry for 8:22 PM giving the location of the airliner
as 23 DME miles south of Portland (the Battleground VORTAC). The George Harrison
papers at the WSHM has a number of statements from different people also giving the
8:22 PM time for the same message, with one single exception. That exception gives a
time of 8:18 PM for the 23 DME point. In my opinion, the 8:18 PM time is the time the
voice message was transmitted and the 8:22 PM time is the teletype transmission time
for the same message. The 8:18 time is the one that will be used here.
In my opinion the airliner flew direct from the Malay Intersection to the Canby
Intersection. Based on marks found on one of the FBI maps, the fact that all aircraft that
were trying to intercept the airliner were vectored to the west and southwest of Portland,
and the fact that the airliner crew had expressed reservations about flying over
populated areas with a bomb onboard, flying from Malay direct to Canby would be a
safe and shorter route.
Basically, there is one single point (the hand off to Oakland at 9:45 PM) where
the location of the airliner can be completely confirmed. I labeled the intersection of the
23 DME arc with the straight line between the Malay and Canby Intersections as time
8:18.0 PM. First, we will use these two points to determine the winds aloft and their
direction. Then we will back things up to the Malay Intersection.
Needless to say, this is not brain surgery or even rocket science. That aside, we
will charge straight ahead anyway.
Assumptions and other information:
1) The airliner was assumed to be in level flight at 10,000 feet.
2) Airspeeds of 165, 170, and 175 Knots Indicated Airspeed were studied.
3) Wind speeds of 0, 22, 25, 30, and 32 Knots were studied.
4) Wind directions of 250, 225, and 215 degrees were studied.
After a considerable time of crunching numbers, the wind direction and speed
used in the calculations was chosen to be from 215 degrees at 32 knots. Those values
gave the following times over various landmarks as follow:
1) Malay Intersection - 7:55.5 PM PST
2) Tina Bar - 8:10.8 PM PST
3) Canby Intersection - 8:19.6 PM PST
4) Eugene VORTAC - 8:46.7 PM PST
5) Medford (Rogue Valley) VORTAC - 9:21.4 PM PST
6) Fort Jones VORTAC Handoff Point - 9:43.8 PM PST
I consider the 1.2 minute difference in the times for the arrival at the handoff to
Oakland to be quite good. Nevertheless, with all the rounding errors and such, these
intermediate values should be considered only approximate.
The Seattle take-off time for the airliner is firmly fixed as being sometime in the
7:36 PM PST minute. The airliner was cleared for take-off, and given an enroute controller frequency to switch to, while still on the ground control frequency. Thus, the
tower and departure controller functions were bypassed during the departure.
Starting at 7:37.2 PM PST, the airliner and Seattle enroute controller R2
exchanged several messages as the controller tried to determine the airliner's position
During the climb to 10,000 feet, the airliner levelled off momentarily at lower
altitudes and varied its airspeed. Consequently, the methods used in post number 2
cannot be used here.
At 7:53.6 PM PST, the airliner reported levelling off at 10,000 feet but did not give
its location. Using the methods from part 2, this time would correspond to a location 5.3
nautical miles north of the Malay Intersection.
Overall, the time from the Seattle VORTAC (which is located between the
southern end of the parallel runways at SEATAC) to the Malay Intersection is consistent
with the available information.
It should be noted that a better estimate of the flight path and times could be
made if the actual Seattle ATC radio transcripts were available.
Several years ago, I did a free-fall analysis for Tom Kaye of the rear stairway
placard that was found several miles south of Toutle. The family that found the placard
took Tom to the location where it was found and he recorded the GPS
coordinates. Using these coordinates and making a conservative estimate of the winds
aloft and the aerodynamic characteristics of the placard, I concluded that it separated
from the airliner at a point that was a mile or two west of the centerline of V-23.
Using the current wind speed and direction, I repeated those calculations and
ended up with a separation point that was even further west of the centerline of
V-23. The new point is less than two miles from the direct line between the Malay and
Since the analysis was quite conservative, I consider the above to be further
support for the direct Malay to Canby flight path.
Radio communications with air traffic control facilities are routinely
recorded. Most of the radio communications between NWA 305 and air traffic control
facilities were transcribed. However, the communications between the airliner and the
Portland tower and the Seattle Air Traffic Control Center, covering the takeoff from
Portland (during which the aircraft was hijacked) until it was handed off to the SEATAC
tower, apparently were not transcribed. This covers only a short period of time between
about 3:00 PM PST and 3:15 PM PST.
The SEATAC tower facility provided the FBI with five reels of magnetic tape
recordings covering all radio communications between the tower and the airliner during
the time it was within a 30 nautical mile radius of the tower. These tapes were
transcribed by SEATAC tower facility personnel. They cover the period from 3:15 PM
PST to 7:41 PM PST. The airliner tookoff from SEATAC at 7:36 PM PST enroute to
Reno. The airliner was cleared for takeoff while on the SEATAC ground control
frequency and told to contact Seattle Center on frequency 121.2. This resulted in the
airliner bypassing the other tower functions.
The relevant FBI form 302 and 49 pages of transcripts covering these five reels
are contained in FBI File SE 164-81, pages 143 thru 192.
It should be noted that there is not a single redaction indicated in these
The Seattle Air Traffic Control Center provided the FBI with a transcript of their
radio communications with the airliner for the period from 7:36 PM PST to 9:45 PM PST
which is when the airliner was handed off to the Oakland ATC Center just south of the
Fort Jones VORTAC in northern California.
The relevant FBI form 302, a cover letter from the Chief of the Seattle Center,
and six pages of transcripts are contained in FBI File SE 164-81, pages 193 thru 200.
It should be noted that these six pages of transcripts contain 19 redactions.
The Oakland Air Traffic Control Center provided the FBI with transcripts of their
radio communications with the airliner for the period 9:44 PM PST to 10:35 PM PST.
This covers the time that Oakland received the airliner from the Seattle Center until it
was handed off to the Reno Tower.
Two cover pages and seven pages of transcripts are contained in FBI File SE
164-81, pages 201 thru 209.
It should be noted that there is not a single redaction in these transcripts.
The Reno Tower facility provided the FBI with transcripts of their radio
communications with the airliner for the period 10:32 PM PST to 11:22 PM PST. This
covers the time that the Reno Tower received the airliner from the Oakland Center until
the aircraft was vacated at Reno.
Two cover pages and 14 pages of transcripts are contained in FBI File SE
164-81, pages 210 thru 225.
It should be noted that there is not a single redaction in these transcripts.
There are a total of 76 pages of radio transcripts and 19 redactions. All 19 of
those redactions are in the six pages of transcripts from the Seattle Center.Pages 143
and 193, mentioned above, were obtained thru FOIA requests. A total of three FOIA
requests, including two Congressional interventions, were made with the FBI and FAA.
My initial FOIA request for the un-redacted Seattle ATC Center's transcripts was
directed to the FAA Northwest Mountain Region office in Renton, Washington.
I went to great lengths to explain that I was only interested in the transcripts for
the period from 7:36 PM PST, November 24, 1971, takeoff time at SEATAC to the 9:45
PM PST hand off time of the airliner to the Oakland Center near the Fort Jones
VORTAC in northern California. These un-redacted transcripts would cover VHF radio
communications between the airliner and the Seattle Center. These public
communications could be heard by anyone with a VHF radio receiver. And reportedly, a
great number of people in the Pacific Northwest did listen to them.
The FAA office in Renton responded immediately and directed me to the FBI
FOIA office in Winchester, Virginia. I contacted that office and, in due time, the FBI
replied and directed me to the Cooper information in the FBI "vault". I was already
familiar with that information.
For some unknown reason, the FBI's response was addressed to "Richard"
Nicholson. Since the age of 16, I have held various Federal government licenses, served in the military, and worked for the Federal government. Nevertheless, this was
the first and so far only instance that the Federal government ever got my name
wrong. So I suspected that some more funny things were coming my way. And they did.
Since the FBI's FOIA reply was not responsive to my request, I appealed the
matter to the Department of Justice.
In due time, the Department of Justice replied by a letter addressed, correctly, to
"Robert" Nicholson. The DOJ response included the following comments:
"The FBI has no record of having received a FOIA request from you."
"Accordingly, there is no action for this office to consider on appeal, and I am
closing your appeal file in this office."
A visit to my US Congressman's office resulted in the FBI reopening my original
request. And after another letter addressed to "Richard", the FBI's FOIA office got my
name corrected to "Robert", and this time it stayed that way.
The end result of the above was the release to me of pages 143 and 193 of FBI
file SE 164-81.
In addition to the above, the FBI referred to the FAA for their review and
disposition, a number of pages that were originally generated by the FAA.
After some additional months and no response from the FAA's FOIA office,
another congressional inquiry was made.
The FAA's response to the above was that the 19 indicated redactions in the six
page Seattle Center's transcript were not redactions at all. Instead, they represented
deletions of unrelated communications with other aircraft.
Oddly, the Seattle Center's transcripts cover a 2:09 time period when the location
of the airliner is not even mentioned.
In my opinion and after due consideration, the 19 indicated redactions are exactly
that. The only reason for not releasing the complete Seattle transcripts would be to
discourage and impede the investigation into the Cooper matter.
It should also be noted that other organizations, including the WSHM, have been
unsuccessful in obtaining un-redacted copies of the above transcripts.
The airliner was cleared for takeoff while on the SEATAC ground control
frequency and told to bypass the other tower functions and contact Seattle ATC Center
on 121.1 immediately after takeoff.
The airliner took off at 7:36 PM PST and contacted Seattle ATC Center controller
R2 at 7:37:17 PM PST.
At 7:49:18 PM, R2 told the airliner to contact Seattle Center on 133.9 in case of
At 7:59:10 PM, R2 told the airliner to contact Seattle Center on 133.9. There is
no indication that any contact was actually made on this frequency. In fact, no 133.9
frequency is even mentioned in the enroute frequency box on IFR Low Altitude Chart
At 8:13:14 PM, the airliner called Seattle Center on "twenty point 9", apparently
120.9, and controller R5 answered. There is no indication in the transcripts that
controller R2 told the airliner to switch frequencies. It should also be noted that Cooper
had apparently jumped within the previous two or three minutes. And controller R2 was
also busy trying to vector several aircraft and Himmelsbach's (Ralph Himmelsbach, the
lead FBI Special Agent in Portland) helicopter to the west and southwest side of
Portland in an effort to intercept the airliner.
At 8:33:36 PM, controller R5 told the airliner to contact Seattle Center on 125.8
and controller R6 answered.
At 8:54:47 PM, controller R6 asked the airliner for a radio check and told the
crew that he had lost their transponder signal but it was apparently soon regained.
At 9:03:36 PM, controller R6 told the airliner to contact Seattle Center on 125.3
and controller R10 answered.
At 9:43:32 PM, the airliner told controller R10 that they wanted to start climbing to
11,000 feet. R10 approved their request.
At 9:45:20 PM, controller R10 told the airliner to contact Oakland Center on
Here is a summary of the Seattle Center VHF frequencies mentioned above, the
controller using that frequency, the time it was used, and the remote location of that
121.2 Controller R2 used this frequency from 7:37:17 PM to about 8:13:14
PM. This frequency is remotely located at Fort Lawton which is northwest of
Seattle. There is no hand off to controller R5 in the radio transcripts.
133.9 No contact was made on this frequency and it does not appear in the
enroute frequencies box. The reference to this frequency was apparently an error.
120.9(?) Although there is no hand off to this frequency in the transcripts, the
airliner contacted controller R5 on this frequency at 8:13:14 PM and were handed off to
controller R6 at 8:33:36 PM. This frequency is remotely located at Scappoose which is
west of Portland and on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.
125.8 Controller R6 used this frequency from 8:33:36 PM to 9:03:36 PM, at
which time the airliner was handed off to controller R10. This frequency is remotely
located at Horton which is just west of Eugene.
125.3 Controller R10 used this frequency from 9:03:36 PM to the hand off to
Oakland Center at 9:45:20 PM. This frequency is remotely located at both Horton and
Klamath Falls and it was probably the last location that was used here.
120.4 This is the Oakland Center's receiving frequency.
The Oakland Center and Reno tower transcripts include both the radio
communications between the controllers and the airliner as well as the land-line
telephone communications between the controllers as they coordinate their activities.
In the Seattle Center transcripts, the airliner is told at 9:45:20 PM PST to contact
the Oakland Center on frequency 120.4. The airliner reads this frequency back at
The Oakland Center transcript starts at 9:44 PM (no seconds are shown in these
transcripts) with a telephone conversation between the Oakland Red Bluff sector
controller personnel and the Seattle Center personnel. It is customary for the controllers
to end their telephone conversations by giving their initials. And one of the Red Bluff
sector controllers ends his participation in this particular conversation by giving his
initials, which are "J M".
The handoff to Oakland Center is actually completed during the 9:45 PM minute
between the Seattle Center controller, who gives his initials as "L E" (this may, or may
not, be R10), and the Oakland Center controller at position EO4 (a coordinator position)
who gives his initials as "W X".
At 9:46 PM, the Red Bluff sector controller ("J M"?) tells the airliner that he now
has radar contact with them. He then tells aircraft "nine eight three" to stand by. After
further discussions with the airliner about its intentions, the Red Bluff controller tells it to
expect to depart the upcoming Red Bluff VORTAC on a heading of 090 to Reno.
At 9:47 PM, the Red Bluff controller tries to contact the airliner on the UHF band
[the airliner was not equipped with a UHF radio] then tells "Rescue 983" that the airliner
can't operate on UHF. The controller then tells "Rescue 983" to monitor his
communications with the airliner on 120.4 VHF but to transmit to him on 306.9 UHF.
"Rescue 983" was the USAF C-130 that was following the airliner and the above
conversation means that the C-130 had both VHF and UHF radios.
Between 9:47 PM and 10:14 PM, only routine communications to the airliner by
radio and between the controllers by telephone are conducted. These communications
are an excellent illustration of what goes on "behind the scenes" in air traffic
control. Multiple controllers were involved in the handling of the airliner but only one
controller was the direct radio communicator with the airliner.
At 10:14 PM, the Red Bluff controller tells the airliner that they can expect radar
vectors to intercept the Instrument Landing System on runway 16 at Reno. This means
that the airliner will be landing to the south at Reno. Also, at this time in 1971, Reno
apparently did not have parallel runways. It now has both a 16L/34R and 16R/34L
The airliner, which was at 11,000 feet at this point, replies that they need a low
rate of descent into Reno. The airliner crew says it can handle about a 300 feet per
minute, but not more than 500 feet per minute, rate of descent.
At 10:26 PM, the airliner is told to contact Oakland Center on 128.8 and the Reno
sector controller replies. The Reno sector controller than vectors the airliner to the north
of Reno so as to provide a 25 to 30 mile final approach leg into the Reno/Tahoe
At 10:34 PM, a handoff from the Oakland Reno sector controller to the Reno
tower radar approach controller (initials "L H") was started with the tower approach
controller asking that the airliner be switched to frequency 126.3 (which is the Reno approach control frequency for arrivals from the northwest). However, the Reno sector
controller initially told the airliner to switch to 119.2 (which is the Reno approach control
frequency for arrivals from the southeast). But this was immediately corrected to 126.3.
The Oakland Center transcripts end at 10:35 PM.
The Reno tower transcripts starts at 10:32 PM and includes some phone
conversations that were not in the Oakland transcripts.
For instance, the C-130 is identified as "Air Rescue 50983", squawking code 11,
and at 12,000 feet. Also, the confusion in the approach frequency is obvious and
Starting at 10:35 PM, the Reno tower radar approach controller makes direct
radio contact with the airliner, gives them their radar location and airport information,
and tells them to expect lower altitudes in 20 miles. The airliner replies that they are
trying to make contact with the hijacker and may have to break off their approach.
Routine communications follow with the crew not being able to contact the
hijacker and the controller giving the airliner headings to fly and continuing to lower their
altitude. However, at the outer marker, the airliner has to make at least one complete
circle to give the crew more time to get set up for the landing.
The airliner is never switched to the Reno tower local controller and, apparently,
is cleared to land on the approach radar controller frequency. There is a prolonged
discussion between the Reno controller and the airliner concerning the landing and
what to do after the landing.
The airliner landed at 11:02 PM. The Reno transcript ends at 11:22 PM and the
FBI took over at that point.
The Oakland Center and Reno tower transcripts are excellent and illustrate how
things were done in the 1971 time frame. And I would recommend that everyone read
them for their own information.
It should be especially noted how many people were involved "behind the
scenes" in these two control facilities. It was definitely a community effort and the
airliner was given priority treatment during the time it was in their control areas.
The "FBI Notes" are contained in the FBI File SE-164-81 at pages 135 thru 141,
inclusive, and basically cover the entire flight from Seattle to Reno. Those seven pages
have attached to them several pages of radio transcripts that are also contained in the
FBI file at pages 186 thru 192, inclusive, and pages 195 thru 197, inclusive. The total
document is 17 pages long.
The ARINC teletypewriter printouts are contained in the above file at pages 89
thru 106, inclusive. They start with a message time stamped at 3:07 PM PST that the
airliner has taken off from Portland with an estimated time of arrival at SEATAC of 3:36
The above message is immediately followed by a message time stamped at 3:13
PM which states that the airliner has been hijacked and lists some of the hijacker's
demands. These messages continue until the one time stamped 8:20 PM, by which time
the airliner is south of Portland enroute to Reno. The message time stamped 8:24 PM is
not related to the hijacked airliner.
There are some oddities in the notes related to the times used. The column on
the left side of page 136 has a label to indicate the times are CST (Central Standard
Time), but the times given in that column are PST (Pacific Standard Time) and so
But the first paragraph following the 3:20 PM time label, contains the following
"[The hijacker] gave a deadline of 1900 CST for all demands to be met."
That time translates to 1700 PST (or 5:00 PM PST) which is the correct time.
How CST came to be involved in this is unknown.
Immediately after takeoff, the airliner was communicating with the NWA and FBI
personnel on radio frequency 131.9. This is described in the notes as a NWA
communications frequency, but was probably actually an ARINC frequency. However,
NWA apparently did have an assigned company radio frequency for the SEATAC area,
but it is not clear what that frequency was.
The crew had been directed to switch to ARINC frequency 131.8 when
communications were lost on 131.9. This happened prior to 8:22 PM, at which time the
airliner was south of Portland. Apparently, the voice telephone patch was completed at
about the same time this frequency switch took place.
There are no ARINC teletypewriter printouts after the one time stamped 8:20 PM.
The ARINC voice radio patch communications were interrupted about 9:42 PM in
the Red Bluff VORTAC area in northern California. This is about three minutes before
the airliner was handed off by the Seattle Center to the Oakland Center.
At 10:30 PM, the airliner switched to the San Francisco ARINC facility on
frequency 130.6 and the voice phone patch was re-established with NWA and the
FBI. But there are no ARINC teletypewriter printouts from the San Francisco ARINC
The notes state that after landing and parking the airliner in Reno, one of the
crew had gone back into the cabin and did not find any sign of the hijacker.
The notes end at 11:35 PM.
The first portion of this analysis mainly discussed the flight path of the airliner
from Seattle to Reno. The information sources were the SEATAC tower radio
transcripts, the Seattle ATC Center radio transcripts, the Oakland ATC Center radio
transcripts, and the Reno tower radio transcripts.
In addition, printouts of some of the messages exchanged between the airliner
and the Seattle ARINC facility were available and consulted. However, it was obvious
that some printouts of relevant messages were missing. No information was available
on the messages exchanged between the airliner and the San Francisco ARINC facility.
No information was available from the Portland tower or the Seattle ATC Center
for the period from when the airliner was hijacked at about 2:58 PM PST (while still on
the ground in Portland) until the airliner contacted the SEATAC tower approach
controller at about 3:15 PM.
Following are some conclusions based on the available information.
1) The SEATAC tower radio transcripts, the Oakland ATC Center radio transcripts, and
the Reno tower radio transcripts are complete and informative.
2) The Seattle ATC Center radio transcripts have been highly redacted in an obvious
effort to remove any and all information that would assist in the precise or meaningful
determination of the airliner's flight path. The FAA's FOIA office has claimed that there
were no "redactions" to the Seattle Center transcripts, but only the deletion of irrelevant
information related to other aircraft. It is exceedingly odd that the Seattle Center needed
to make 19 redactions in six pages of transcripts while the other control facilities did not
make a single redaction in about 10 times that number of pages of
transcripts. Therefore, it is glaringly obvious that the no "redactions" claim by the FAA's
FOIA office is beyond preposterous.
3) There is no believable information to suggest that the airliner was ever east of the
centerline of V-23 until it was turned toward Reno at the Red Bluff VORTAC in northern
4) The airliner did not fly over, or even close to, Ariel, Washington.
5) The airliner clearly bypassed Portland on the west side and evidence supports the
western route was direct from the vicinity of the Malay Intersection on V-23 (northwest
of Portland) to the vicinity of the Canby Intersection on V-23 (south of Portland).
6) In bypassing Portland on the western side, the airliner flew directly over, or within
about 1000 feet laterally, of Tina Bar.
The money find at Tina Bar is the single most important factor in determining the
airliner's flight path, where Cooper jumped, and Cooper's fate itself.
Georger (online DB Cooper forum moniker used by an acquaintance) has spent
a great amount of time researching the flight path in the Portland area. All of the people
he talked to in that area told him that the airliner passed on the west side of Portland.
And in my opinion, only a direct route between the Malay and Canby Intersections
makes any sense in view of the marks on the FBI map plus the controller's efforts to
have military aircraft join up with the airliner plus other factors. This route would
basically be along the west shore of the Columbia River at Tina Bar.