Forums: Skydiving: Skydiving History & Trivia: Take This Plane To Mexico: Edit Log


Feb 18, 2008, 7:36 PM

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Take This Plane To Mexico

In Forums: Skydiving: Skydiving History & Trivia: D B Cooper Unsolved Skyjacking (the old thread), I asked (in post # 1467):
I’m doing some research, and there is something I need to know.
Did Cooper request V-23 or did the pilot(s) select V-23?
I have seen so much stuff (mostly on the Internet) in the last 20 years that either downright state that Cooper requested/demanded V-23 or implies it. I’ve also seen information that says the pilots selected V-23 because of the low altitude demanded by Cooper and the original destination demand (Mexico).
Also, did he state a location in Mexico in his “Fly this plane to _____” demand?

Ckret responded in Post #1473:
Neither requested Victor 23. The pilots and NWA flight operations wanted to fly out to the coast and where waiting for clearance to do so. It was not until just before takeoff that they were cleared through Sacramento via Victor 23.
Cooper originally stated they could land anywhere in Mexico but after discussion he agreed to Reno. Of course we know now Cooper could have cared less because he wasn't going to be on the plane anywhere near any of those locations.

Also, in Post #1607 Ckret said:
Cooper never requested a flight path, he never requested an update from the flight crew and no one reported he even had on a watch that he could have timed wheels up. Also, V 23 is not the only low altitude route south from Seatac.
Conclusion, Cooper had little idea where he was when he jumped.

I have been doing some research (for about 3 weeks) and I am ready to state “Cooper knew EXACTLY where he was when he jumped”. It may (at first glance) appear that he made no demands on the pilots or flight operations, but actually he did. But, he did it in the way a magician uses re-direction to make a person (victim) think he/she has made a “free-will” choice, but instead is “forced into the choice” that the magician wants.

I have a large amount of data to back up my assertions, but I will only post what the members of this board want to see. So, if you need proof, ask for it. Otherwise, I assume that you will accept that I have carefully considered my position on this. This will keep me from clogging the board with maps and Microsoft Word documents that most people are not interested in.

Here’s what I have done, and some of my assertions:

Cooper’s Demands:
Cooper told the flight crew he had a bomb and showed them something that made them believe it was true.
He asked to be flown to Mexico (with no particular destination). This has been interpreted by most to be an “un-demand", but remember this fact: All of Mexico is East of SEA-TAC. I will rephrase this to put it in a better context for this discussion. There is NO PART of Mexico that is West of SEA-TAC. Therefore the nearest destination that is in Mexico is the Gen Abelardo L. Rodriguez International Airport just across the border from Brown Field Municipal Airport in Chula Vista, California.
He demanded an unusual (for a cross country flight) configuration that would limit range before refueling (due to a fuel burn that was 2.2 times greater than normal) and what terrain the plane could fly over. Such as flaps at 15 deg, airspeed less that 200 statute mph, aft stairs lowered, and DO NOT EXCEED 10,000 feet MSL).

Available Routes (See Attached file “Four-Low-Altitude-Routes-ANN RED”:
As Ckret says V-23 is not the only low-level Victor Airway South from SEA-TAC. Yes there is one other V-27 (the coastal route), and if you choose to go East then South there are two more. I will list all the available routes and some characteristics of each (below I have given them the #s 1 – 4 for convenience):
NOTE: MEA = Minimum Enroute Altitude; MOCA = Minimum Obstruction Clearance Altitude; and OROCA = Off Route Obstruction Clearance Altitude. The least important of these is OROCA because it is only an issue if you are off the Victor Airway.

DATA For Victor Two-Seven (Route #1)
Total Track Length is 1243 Statute Miles.
Highest MEA is 8000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL)
Highest MOCA is 5200 feet MSL.
Highest OROCA is 11,100.

DATA For Victor Two-Three (Route #2)
Total Track Length is 1114 Statute Miles.
Highest MEA is 10,000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL)
Highest MOCA is 9400 feet MSL.
Highest OROCA is 16,300.

DATA For Victor Four and Victor Two-Five (Route #3)
Total Track Length is 1220 Statute Miles.
Highest MEA is 12,000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL)
Highest MOCA is 9600 feet MSL.
Highest OROCA is 16,700.

DATA For Victor Four, Two-One, and Two-Three (Route #4)
Total Track Length is 1414 Statute Miles.
Highest MEA is 10,300 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL)
Highest MOCA is 9000 feet MSL.
Highest OROCA is 16,700.

Eliminating Routes:
Routes #3 and #4 can be eliminated without further discussion because the track length is long and (more importantly) the MEA is over 10,000 ft MSL. If you have a crazy man in the cabin, he says he has a bomb, and you believe him, you aren’t going to travel at an altitude higher than he specifies (the bomb may explode at higher than 10,000 ft), plus, you have the aft stairs open (unpressurized) so you need to be on oxygen at above 10,000.

That leaves Victor Two-Seven and Victor Two-Three.

Victor Two-Seven looks the best with regard to altitude, but there are two problems with it. First, it is 129 statute miles longer (I think over-water flight requires 1 hour reserve fuel rather than the standard 30 min, but I didn’t include this in my calculations due to uncertainty). Also, you lose a “degree of freedom” by flying on the coast. In other words, in an emergency you can only go east to find an emergency landing site (on land) and surely a nut-case with a bomb might precipitate an emergency.

That leaves Victor 23 as the only “real choice”. Cooper knew that given the parameters for flight the only viable Victor Airway Southeast (Remember Mexico is Southeast of SEA-TAC) was V-23. So, even thought Ckret is right to say “Cooper never requested a flight path” he is wrong in his assumption; “Cooper had little idea where he was when he jumped”.

The flight parameters Cooper gave the crew when he requested the vague destination of “Mexico” guaranteed they would take V-23. When the plan changed to Reno as a re-fuel destination, it fit right into V-23 as the only route.

Could the flight have been vectored by the FAA instead of following the Victor airways? Yes, of course, but, if you were going to direct a 727 flying at 10,000 feet, with the aft stairs down, flaps at 15 deg, and flying just above stall-speed, are you going to “wing it” or follow an established route that is cleared for low-altitude IFR flight.

So, now he knows he is going to be following V-23. All he needs is (even a cheap) compass. The plane leaves SEATAC flying a heading of 178 deg. It maintains that heading until the MALAY Fix, where it turns 27 deg left (his body may not sense it, but the compass will). Then the flight proceeds to the Battle Ground VORTAC (BTG) where it turns back right 24 deg. Now he jumps into the flat, farmlands, and he knows exactly where he his, whether he can see objects on the ground or not.

Please give me critical feedback. Especially if you are an FAR Part 121 (Passenger Carrying) Pilot and/or flew in the PAC NW in the 60s and 70s. I don’t want to be right only in my mind; I want to be right beyond all doubt. If I can get critical feedback and refine the (considerable) work I’ve done on this, then we can “put to bed” the notion that Cooper didn’t know where he was when he jumped. It doesn’t address all those other issues, but establishes a foundation for understanding exactly where he jumped.

Thanks for your patience with this long post,


(This post was edited by Sluggo_Monster on Feb 18, 2008, 7:48 PM)
Attachments: Four-Low-Altitude-Routes-ANN RED.jpg (78.1 KB)

Edit Log:
Post edited by Sluggo_Monster () on Feb 18, 2008, 7:40 PM
Post edited by Sluggo_Monster () on Feb 18, 2008, 7:42 PM
Post edited by Sluggo_Monster () on Feb 18, 2008, 7:48 PM

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