Agilent and the Search for D.B. Cooper

Could Agilent help crack one of the most famous unsolved crimes in history?

In 1971, a well-dressed man named Dan Cooper hijacked a U.S. airplane, demanding four parachutes and $200,000 in small bills.  Somewhere north of Portland, Oregon, he leapt out of the plane with the money tied to himself.  He has never been heard from since.

Almost half a century later, the mystery – and the fascination – surrounding D.B. Cooper endures.

Items found on the plane after Cooper’s escape included a clip-on tie.  The FBI obtained DNA samples but found no matches.  In 1980, a young boy uncovered almost $6,000 of the missing money while digging in the sand on the banks of the Columbia River north of Portland.

In 2016, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation finally closed its casefile after 45 years “in order to focus on other investigative priorities.”  But a group of citizen scientists calling themselves “Citizen Sleuths” is continuing the investigation.

With the cooperation of the FBI, the McCrone analytical laboratory conducted further analysis on the tie. McCrone’s equipment includes Agilent gas chromatographs and mass selective detectors.  Researchers found particles of rare metals, including cerium, strontium sulfide and non-alloyed titanium.

Citizen Sleuths believes that Cooper worked for an aerospace industry contractor such as Boeing.  This would explain Cooper’s familiarity with airplanes, parachutes and explosives.  It would explain the rare metals found on the tie.  And it would reduce the number of potential suspects from millions to hundreds.

The FBI’s stated position is “we don’t know if it’s his tie” and “we don’t have anything to share.”  In the meantime, the investigation – and the legend – continues.

Today’s blog post topic was suggested by my wife Gail.  Love you, wife!


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