D.B. Cooper – The Parachute Found in Amboy, WA – and Why The FBI’s Explanation Makes No Sense

amboywithcaptionIn late March of 2008, a story broke in the press that some kids from the small town of Amboy, WA had discovered a partially buried parachute. The parachute was found along the same line as the alleged dropzone for Cooper. As a spokesperson for the Seattle FBI said initially to the press:

“It’s the right kind, the right color, and found in the right area…”

Earl Cossey, the man who packed the parachutes for Cooper, but did not actually OWN or DELIVER them to SeaTac Airport (as he claimed in the media for years) said this:

“It was my parachute,” said Earl Cossey of Woodinville, Wash. “So, yes, I’d be able to identify it to this day.”

It is possible he could ID the chute, but the FBI’s own records tell a slightly different story than the one Cossey told the media for years. (Cossey only packed the parachutes, and this was done some time prior to the hijacking.) The proof is in an official FBI document publicly available on their dot gov website. It was written shortly after the hijacking by Special Agent John S. Detlor. It tells how the chutes were actually obtained for DB Cooper on November 24, 1971, and how they were delivered. And Cossey was neither their owner, nor did he deliver them to SeaTac as he claimed for years:

‘SE 164- 81

Mr. George Harrison, Northwest Airlines (NWA), Flight Operations, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, (SeaTac) advised that he talked with Mr. Barry Halstead of Pacific Aviation at Boeing Field, Seattle, in order to secure parachutes to furnish to the hijacker in this matter. He stated that two parachutes were obtained through Halstead, these two parachutes being back pack parachutes. He stated that two chest pack parachutes which were also furnished to the hijacker were obtained from Mr. Linn Emerick of Seattle Sky Sports in Issaquah, Washington. He stated that these two chest pack parachutes were transported to Sea-Tac by the Washington State Patrol.

Mr. Barry Halstead, Pacific Aviation, Boeing Field, Seattle, advised that the two back pack parachutes which were furnished to Northwest Airlines were obtained from a Mr. Norman Hayden of Hayden Manufacturing Company at Renton, WA.

Mr. Norman Hayden, Hayden Manufacturing Company, Renton, advised that two back pack parachutes which were his property, were furnished to Northwest Airlines. He stated that he called a taxicab in Kent, Washington, and had the taxi cab deliver the parachutes to Boeing Flight Service, Seattle. He described the two back pack parachutes as follows:

  1. Civilian luxury type, tan soft cotton material outside, 26-foot white canopy inside. The parachute inside is a military parachute. The parachute has a foam pad cushion and a fray mark down the rib on the back from rubbing on metal.
  2. A military back pack parachute, standard olive-drab green on outside, 28-foot white canopy on inside. He stated that this parachute also has a foam pad cushion.
  3. He stated that both parachutes bore lead seals which had not been broken, and it is possible that the seals may bear a confidential number, such as a rigger’s number. He stated that both of his parachutes were assembled for him by Mr. Earl Cossey, who works at Sky Sports at Issaquah, Washington, and has a telephone number of SU-3-0475. Hayden said he can positively identify both of his back pack parachutes…’

What do we have here so far? What does it all mean? Well, that is the Big Question, isn’t it?
The best road to the answer is to examine how the Seattle FBI handled all of this.

What Happened Next:

amboymapfinalThe Seattle FBI decided to excavate the parachute and bring it to their offices in Seattle. They made announcements in the media saying that they would consult experts to determine the nature of the parachute and whether it was Cooper’s. There was some speculation that the chute could have belonged to one Lt. Floyd Walling, a guy who bailed out in the same general area in late 1945, but that theory was quickly dismissed because the date of manufacturing on the chute was AFTER Walling jumped. The only person they really consulted on the whole thing was Earl Cossey, a man who had falsely claimed for years that he not only owned the chutes, but actually delivered them to the airport the night of the hijacking.

EarlCosseyCourtesyofWoodinvillePatchIn April of 2013, five years after the Amboy chute was discovered, Earl Cossey was beaten to death in his own home, so there is no way to go back and confront him about his claim. (His murder remains unsolved to this day) Or to ask him why he would be motivated to identify Cooper’s parachute even if he had the chance. After all, he was untruthful to the media for years regarding ownership and delivery of the chutes. So why would he say ‘Yes, that’s the one.’ The reason being that if he identifies any chute as Cooper’s, it would undoubtably come out that he lied for years on ownership and delivery of the Cooper chutes, and this could be embarrassing. It is more likely that he would dismiss any chute brought to him for identification. Here is a quote from Cossey at the time of the find, which shows his general attitude:

Over the decades, as parachutes were sometimes discovered suspected to be Cooper’s, the FBI sought Cossey’s help in identifying them.

“They keep bringing me garbage,” Cossey told The Associated Press in 2008, after the FBI brought him a silk parachute discovered by children playing at a recently graded road in Southwest Washington. “Every time they find squat, they bring it out and open their trunk and say, ‘Is that it?’ and I say, ‘Nope, go away.’ Then a few years later they come back.”

That didn’t keep him from having fun at the expense of reporters. Cossey told some who happened to call him on April Fools’ Day that year that the chute was, in fact, Cooper’s.

One reporter called him back and angrily said he could be fired for writing a false story, Cossey said. Another said the newsroom was entertained by the prank.

“I’m getting mixed reviews,” Cossey said. “But I’m having fun with it. What the heck.”

Not a real surprise he would get ‘mixed reviews,’ since he was not only playing games with the media, but was not truthful about his involvement with those chutes in the first place. For many years. Then you have to ask yourself that if the Seattle FBI (according to their own records) KNEW Cossey had been less-than-honest about ownership and delivery – why they would continue to take his word on a possible identification of the right chute?

Silk parachute?

cooperparachuteEarl Cossey told reporters in several media articles two different things. First, that the chute he gave to Cooper was made of nylon, and the one the FBI dug up in Amboy was made of silk, so it couldn’t be Cooper’s. This claim has been roundly discounted by other parachute experts because silk is biodegradable, and would have rotted after years of being buried in the cold, wet ground of Washington State. Nylon would not. In other articles, Cossey also said that the Seattle FBI brought the chute to his house and he told them he knew it wasn’t Cooper’s ‘in less than ten seconds.’ In these articles, he re-interates that he would know because he owned the chutes, and delivered them. But neither of those things are true.

Missing Container and Harness:

WhyCooperCutCordsWhen a parachute hits the ground, whether or not there is cargo or a human being underneath it…there will be a container and harness attached to it. Neither were found when the FBI dug up the chute and brought it to Seattle. In order for this to happen, a human being must REMOVE them. So where did these items go, and why would someone take the trouble to remove them and take them elsewhere?

And then take even MORE time to bury the canopy?

The FBI’s Convoluted Road to a Final Determination:

In a short word, it’s complicated. Within about two weeks after the story broke in the press, the FBI made a simple announcement. The parachute found in Amboy WASN’T Cooper’s, but the only reason they gave was a rather lame ‘by a totality of the information…’ which means exactly nothing, or ‘it’s none of your business’. It was not evidence in the case. It was dismissed. But when this writer inquired officially with the Seattle FBI in 2013 asking exactly HOW they came to this determination, this is what they told me in an email:

“We cannot discuss it because it’s evidence in an ongoing case…”

Really? They said five years previously it WASN’T evidence. So why is it suddenly ‘evidence in an ongoing case’ today? When I inquired a second time asking why they now classified the chute as evidence when they previously dismissed it, I got the same response. When I asked what other ‘outside experts’ had actually been consulted, they admitted such experts (other than Cossey) were only consulted by phone. How anyone could identify a chute by phone is beyond my understanding. After the FBI made their final announcement, the results appeared in several media articles like This One.

An Overall Review:

Parachute is discovered. FBI says it’s the right type, color, and found in the right area. At first they think it belonged to a Marine pilot, but the dates don’t match. They go to Earl Cossey for the identification, but Cossey has been less than honest in his statements over the years to media. He says he knows it isn’t Cooper’s because it’s a silk parachute, which is extremely unlikely anyway. Then the FBI says it isn’t Cooper’s, but doesn’t give a reason, beyond a very weak ‘by a totality of the information’. They don’t even verify Cossey’s claim it was made of silk. Five years later, they say the chute is evidence in an ongoing (Cooper) case. Someone along the way took the trouble to remove the container and harness from the chute and bury the canopy. Why? How many parachutes do you believe are buried in the prime drop zone for Cooper with all the hardware removed? The entire thing stinks to high heaven, in this writer’s humble opinion.

What the staff at Adventure Books of Seattle believe regarding the Amboy parachute:

LikeThisBagButNoZipperFirst, we think the FBI should have done a simple test to see if the chute was actually made of silk, since this is the main reason Cossey told media why he dismissed it. Second, we believe there is an excellent chance the chute actually WAS used by Cooper. Third, that the reason no container and harness were found is because Cooper disconnected them and moved them elsewhere. Why would Cooper take the trouble to remove those items and then bury the canopy?

nb6NavyOne good reason might be that Cooper decided to transfer the ransom money bundles into something that more resembled a backpack, rather than the bank bag he received with the money in it. After all, Cooper DID ask that the money be delivered to him in a backpack when the hijacked flight was on the ground in Seattle. A bank bag would be easy to spot, harder to carry out of the woods, and the cops would be on the lookout for someone carrying it. In any event, we also believe there is a reason the Seattle FBI says seven years later that the chute is ‘evidence in an ongoing case’. We think they believe it IS the chute, but just aren’t saying so publicly. Otherwise, what would be the point?

‘Question Everything’

On a side note, the Citizen Sleuths, the civilian group who were allowed to examine and test several evidentiary items from the hijacking, and published the results on a comprehensive website…have a standing offer to the FBI asking to be allowed to examine the Amboy chute for themselves. To date, the Seattle FBI has not responded to that request.

Submitted by:
Robert Blevins, managing editor, Adventure Books of Seattle


  1. Walter asks: “How do you know for sure the FBI contacted Cossey?”

    Answer: It was covered heavily in the media. Cossey talked to reporters, and in other articles, the FBI says they showed it to him. As far as the ‘ongoing case’ being someone else, I don’t see how that can be. We’re talking about a parachute found buried without its container and harness. (A human being has to remove them manually first) Chute itself does not represent a criminal act, but the possible use of it in the hijacking. Since the FBI has gone along with this rather lame ‘silk, not nylon’ explanation, I think it’s plain they whitewashed the whole find.


  2. “….. Really? They said five years previously it WASN’T evidence. So why is it suddenly ‘evidence in an ongoing case’ today? …. ”

    Easily explained. Different FBI employees / managers / policies.

    The difference was merely one or all of these.


    1. As for Citizen Sleuths, I’d have to ask why the FBI would even consider them worthy of cooperating on an official basis.

      Their website states that the military chute given to Cooper could not be steered. Personally, I took skydiving lessons and did jump with a military chute in 1978. It COULD be steered by pulling one of either handles on either side of the jumpers harness at his head level. The chute would rotate in a circular fashion either way and increase in descent speed as the handles released air from the chute above.

      When I sent this information recently to Citizen Sleuths and pointed out that their website had an error, they didn’t bother to try and rebut what I told them. In other words, their website had one error that was glaring and I pointed it out to them.

      The reason my training company used the chute style was twofold: they explained that the chute style was safer than the kite style chutes and were slower in descent / easier to control. So, Cooper was using a chute that was known to be the safer design.


      1. It doesn’t take an FBI agent to realize that it would be impossible for silk material to still exist in wet ground since WWII 🙂 Anyone who suggested such stupidity lacks basic common sense.


    2. You should ask the Seattle FBI, as I once did, to explain the criteria they used to dismiss the chute. They don’t have an answer, and they only thing they said in the media is they dismissed it by ‘a preponderance of the evidence’. They said they consulted experts. I found out later these people were only consulted by phone. The only one who saw the chute outside of FBI agents was Cooper chute packer Earl Cossey. And Cossey claimed he dismissed it ‘in less than ten seconds’ because it was silk, and not nylon. He’s also claimed many times that he both OWNED and DELIVERED the chutes to SeaTac. That isn’t true either. You can find much more on this whole thing over at another website, including the FBI’s own document by Agent John S. Detlor showing who actually owned and delivered the chutes. Two came from Norman Hayden of Kent, WA via a taxicab to the airport. Both backpacks. The two reserves came from Issaquah Sky Sports. One of the Hayden chutes was eventually returned to Mr Hayden, who donated it to the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, where it remains today in a display. The point of all this is to show some of the reasons why the FBI’s explanation on the Amboy chute just doesn’t wash.


      1. How do you know for sure the FBI contacted Cossey? What turns me off is that he dismissed it within 10 seconds.
        Are sure the “ongoing case” is Cooper and not someone else? The FBI isn’t going to tell you they are investigating someone else because you may know that person and inadvertently warn them.


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