Netflix’s new four-episode documentary series “D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!” starts out focused on the infamous skyjacker then turns its attention to the “Cooperites,” citizen sleuths who have made it their mission to promulgate theories about Cooper’s identity — or to debunk others’ theories or poke holes in the FBI’s investigation.

Streaming beginning July 13, showrunner P.G. Morgan (“The Way Down,” “Lance”) says the production team was intrigued by the reaction to the Cooper case 50 years after it occurred as much as the case itself.

“What was it about this case that kept people coming back?” Morgan said, noting producers wanted a lighter, jazzy, “Catch Me If You Can” tone, one represented in the show’s opening credits, which are reminiscent of HBO Max’s “The Flight Attendant.” (The “Cooper” show recruited “Flight Attendant” composer Blake Neely to create the theme music.)

“Given the times that we live in now, when conspiracy theories are a big part of our lives, D.B. Cooper is one of the early versions of this — quite a benign version — but it’s a sideways insight into that kind of mindset,” Morgan explained, “where you start to piece things together only allowing evidence that you think fits your picture and you exclude things that don’t fit your story.”


The first episode is largely a recounting of the incident: On Nov. 24, 1971, a man who identified himself as Dan Cooper — D.B. came from early misreporting that stuck — passed a note to a flight attendant on a Northwest Orient flight from Portland to Seattle. He said he had a bomb and demanded $200,000 and four parachutes. After the plane landed in Seattle and passengers deplaned, the crew took to the skies again and Cooper jumped out the 727’s aft airstair.


What happened after that remains a mystery, but some of the show’s interview subjects have strong beliefs on myriad suspects.

“Each person really feels like it’s their story because of how much they’ve invested in it,” said Marina Zenovich (“The Way Down,” “Lance”), director of the series. “And that’s a lot of what a documentary filmmaker feels like when they’re doing a film about something. It was almost like holding a mirror up to myself. You’re lost without your quest and these people are on all on a quest.”

Bruce Smith, of Eatonville, Pierce County, is among those interviewed in “D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!” He’s the author of “D.B. Cooper and the FBI: A Case Study of America’s Only Unsolved Skyjacking” and publisher of The Mountain News, which hosts many of his articles on Cooper.


“Our ability to solve cases like this keeps getting better and better,” Smith said. “Clearly, the citizen sleuths have far outdistanced the FBI’s ability to conduct an efficient, effective investigation. I think why they closed the case [in July 2016] was they were getting shown up by a bunch of amateurs and it didn’t make them look good.”

While it’s an article of faith among most citizen sleuths that Cooper survived after parachuting out of the plane, there’s little agreement on Cooper’s true identity.


“D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!” spends a lot of time on former TV news producer Tom Colbert’s belief that Robert Rackstraw Sr. was Cooper, but some evidence (and cringeworthy sidewalk news conferences) ultimately cast a pall over that theory.

“He’s a fascinating character, but I’m not sure that he’s D.B. Cooper,” Zenovich said of Rackstraw. “I like people to decide for themselves, but I like the idea that [Cooper] jumped out of the plane, he had a team waiting for him and he got away. But the problem with that is, did all those people take that [secret] to their grave? I don’t think so. So I honestly don’t know. I’m more interested in the hunt, the quest, the obsession.”

The final episode of the series explores “the Canadian theory” that posits that Cooper was a Canadian reader of a French-language comic book whose lead character was a Royal Canadian Air Force test pilot named Dan Cooper.

Smith says that’s one possibility but not his preferred theory.

“My bet would be it’s somebody that’s involved in covert ops,” Smith said. “He’s a man who really does a good job of keeping secrets. And one of the problems that I’ve noticed with humanity and people who are interested in the case is that they have an unconscious or semiconscious bias that they think D.B. Cooper is probably somebody like them. And that’s not the case.”

Ultimately, the mystery may never be solved to the satisfaction of the Cooperites.

“There are people in the world, and I think D.B. Cooper is one of them, who are very different than the average Joe,” Smith said. “The way I put it in my book is D.B. Cooper came from nowhere and when he jumped he went back to nowhere.”

“D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?!”

The documentary miniseries begins streaming July 13 on Netflix.