Forty-six years ago a man calling himself Dan Cooper bought a ticket on Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 from Portland to Seattle for $20 cash and walked onboard a Boeing 727 with a bomb-like device in his carry-on briefcase. After takeoff he demanded that the airplane should land to be refueled for a flight to Mexico, at which time he allowed the passengers to disembark in exchange for two parachutes and $200,000 in cash. After the airplane returned to the sky, he lowered the aft boarding stairway and was never seen again.
Whether by mistake or design, it was some wag in the news media who coined an alias-within-an-alias when he gave the hijacker the familiar epithet “D. B.” Cooper.
For two decades after the hijacking, upon learning that that my name was Cooper, a new acquaintance would invariably ask, “Are you D. B. Cooper?” Or, “Any relation to D. B. Cooper?” This was all in jest, of course, since I’m five or ten years too young, one or two inches too short, and my eyes are way too blue to be DB. Not to mention, how could any of us be related to an alias? However, those little icebreakers often worked in my favor when they made it easy for me to talk with new friends, and gave them a hook to remember my name.
You might say that DB gave me the gift of gab, even if I had to start every conversation with no, I am not D. B. Cooper.
It wasn’t until five years ago that the hijacker’s faux moniker became a more serious issue for me, when I decided to self-publish my books. Early in the process, I learned that there was a platoon of writers on Amazon Kindle and Create Space named Doug Cooper, or Douglas Cooper, or Douglas S. Cooper, or D. Scott Cooper, ad infinitum. In fact, the only variation of my name that wasn’t being used by another author was D. S. Cooper. So, what the heck. After all, initials worked pretty well for E. B. White, A. A. Milne, C. S. Lewis, H. P. Lovecraft and H. G. Wells.
Of course, I wasn’t counting on the sheer tonnage of words that have been churned out about DB over the years, which now take precedence over my pen name on every search engine. So, if you look online for books by D. S. Cooper you’ll have to get past a plethora of books about D. B. Cooper, of which there may be no end. It seems that some devotees will always keep the flame for the DB myth, especially after eight-year-old Brian Ingram found fragments of twenty-dollar bills bearing the serial numbers of the Flight 305 ransom on the banks of the Columbia River, nine miles downstream from Vancouver in February of 1980. I have no idea how they got there.
Here’s the thing: It is too late for me to change my copyrights, covers, ISBN numbers and so forth, so I guess I’ll just ride out the name confusion and keep writing as D. S. Cooper. I’m not sure if it’s helping or hurting my book sales, but I can tell you for sure that I am not D. B. Cooper.
Since everybody of a certain age seems to have a pet theory about DB, here’s my take: The Flight 305 skyjacking was an incredibly stupid misadventure by a man who knew a little bit about a lot of things (more Cliff Clavin than James Bond) and got in way over his head. My best hope for the poor guy is that he never deployed his parachute and that he perished before impacting the brutally unforgiving terrain upstream from where those fragments of ransom money were found. The important thing to remember is that I am NOT D. B. Cooper.
And the next time you endure TSA security screening at the airport, give a nod to good old DB, because the Federal Aviation Administration first mandated the examination of all carry-on baggage a few days after my — I mean his — nutty stunt.