Come see the highlights of the FBI’s “official” flight path for DB Cooper’s getaway flight, as we follow State Route 503 from Vancouver to Amboy, WA.
The Bureau has traditionally characterized the Victor-23 airway as the flight path for Flight 305 when it left Sea-Tac airport. At 8:13 pm, DB Cooper jumped from his aircraft, according to the First Officer Bill Rataczak, the pilot who was actually flying the plane. This flight path generally leads southwards from Seattle, slightly east of the I-5. But where was 305 when Cooper jumped? This piece of information is critical since it determines where Cooper landed - his LZ (Landing Zone).
Initially, the FBI concluded that 305 was slightly east-north-east of La Conner, WA, which would put Cooper’s LZ north of the Lewis River near Ariel, WA due to prevailing winds and his drift.
But then the FBI determined that Cooper jumped a minute or so later, over Battleground, WA, and drifted northeasterly to the Amboy, south of Ariel. That is where the ground search first began on Friday, November 26, 1971, with primary elements from the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, led by Under Sheriff Tom McDowell.
But the FBI changed their perspective in 1975 after a regional conference of top brass and decided that 305 was further south, near Orchards, on the outskirts of Vancouver, which put Cooper’s LZ in the Hockinson area, several miles south of Amboy.
As it turns out, SR 503 starts in Vancouver, runs through Orchards, passes through Hochinson on its way to Amboy, which is just due south of Ariel. Hence, this road tour will recapitulate the three LZs the FBI claimed were potential LZs.
We will convoy in private cars, leaving from Vancouver in the early afternoon – approximately 1 pm on Sunday, November 24th - and take two hours to view the hot spots including the Ariel Tavern, the Merwin Dam and its campground where 200 US Army troops bivouacked in March and April 1972 for their ground search. Further, we will survey the woodlands along Cedar Creek Road in Amboy where the first “boots of the ground” went looking for Cooper. Our tour will conclude on a property owned by DB Cooper aficionado Bernice R. (tentatively) who lives in the area and was present for the initial ground search. Her property was subsequently searched by the FBI in the following week when they went house-to-house in Amboy and Ariel looking for Cooper. Bernice’s property is also the site of at least one Travel Channel documentary that explored the Cooper case.
The tour will be led by Bruce A. Smith, and is free. In addition, participants will be able to leave the tour at any point.