Just days before Thanksgiving in 1971, one man pulled off a daring plane hijacking and disappeared mid-air, leaving people wondering for years who it was. All the authorities had was one name: Dan Cooper, which later became D.B. Cooper as it circulated through the press. Netflix’s four-part docuseries’ D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!’ delves into Tom Colbert’s investigation into Cooper’s real identity. Bill Mitchell, who was on the plane that day and remembered seeing Cooper, shared his story on the show. So, if you’re curious about where he might be today, here’s what we know.
Who is Bill Mitchell?
Bill Mitchell was a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Oregon when he boarded that fateful flight from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington. The son of an ex-Marine was expecting only a 37-minute flight to Seattle, but little did he know that the events from that day would keep him in the air for about three and a half hours and leave him with a fascinating story to share in the years that followed.
At the time, Bill sat across the aisle from an unassuming middle-aged man and didn’t think twice about him until the stewardess began paying attention. He later said jealousy got to him, adding, “It sort of bugged me that this flight attendant was talking with this older guy with a suit and smoking, and here you had a University of Oregon sophomore sitting right across the aisle, and she wouldn’t make any eye contact or anything.” But what Bill didn’t know at the time was that this man had passed an ominous note to the stewardess.
D.B. Cooper, as he would later be famously known, told the stewardess in the note about having a bomb with him and demanding money and parachutes to get away. First, Bill remembered the pilot saying there was engine trouble before the flight landed later than usual at the Seattle airport. While the rest of the passengers got off, Cooper and the crew stayed behind. It wasn’t until then that Bill learned that the plane had been hijacked.
Bill mentioned, “DB Cooper was romanticized. All my friends and me, we, um, looked at him as ‘beating the man’ – y’know. But he had six sticks of dynamite and was sitting next to me!…I wasn’t, like angry, but more like puzzled. But you have to remember; when people called him a hero, he also had a bomb and was threatening to blow me up.”
The flight took off after the passengers left, and Cooper jumped off the plane somewhere in southwest Washington at some point. As the legend of Cooper grew in the months and years that followed, Bill was visited by the federal authorities who asked for his help with a composite sketch. They also checked with him about a possible suspect, Richard McCoy, but Bill didn’t think he was Cooper.
Where is Bill Mitchell Today?
Initially, Bill was asked to stay away from the media and refused several interviews. However, more than four decades later, he felt comfortable talking about it. Regarding what he thought had happened to Cooper, he said, “My theory from day one, or three days after I realized what was going on, is that he’s plunked down on the ground someplace in southern Washington dead with the money.”
It has been reported that Bill worked at Boeing in the past for more than three decades. He mentioned in 2014 that even at work, they discussed the case. Besides that, Bill said that the federal agents he talked to also thought Cooper died after the jump. However, Bill still wondered because the hijacking was planned extremely well. As of 2019, he resided in Seattle and has been a regular fixture at CooperCon, where fellow enthusiasts of the case come together and talk about it. On the show, he mentioned that it helped him meet people, and even to this day, they showed him photos to see if he recognized that person as Cooper.