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Around Thanksgiving (2010) my wife Robin and I were sitting on the sofa watching the 11:00pm late news when they announced it was once again the anniversary of the “D.B. Cooper skyjacking event. On television, they always talk about it…this time they showed the original film footage of the airliner, taken during a stormy night in Seattle around 40 years earlier. In addition, they also displayed the composite sketch of the skyjacker, drawn from the memories of the few passengers and crew members to have observed him on the night of the skyjacking. “Look”, I told my wife, “That guy was my father. I swear to God, he’s the one who did it.” She was astonished. I went on to tell her my Dad’s brother, Bud, was in on it also. That he was a jet captain for the very airline, Northwest Orient, that was hijacked! Now, outside of conversations with my mother, I’d not mentioned a word of all this to anybody in over 40 years! The newscast went on to say that the FBI had discovered additional new evidence in the case, (In the form of DNA) again they asked for the public’s help in finally solving the case. I not only decided to tell my wife, I told her of my decision to contact the authorities including the FBI as soon as possible to reveal what I knew. I was excited that evening, I began to tell my wife more about the story.
Before the newscast on television was over, I walked her to our living room wall, pointing to a portrait of my father and his brother Bud standing next to each other in front of an airplane, (front cover photo on book). “Robin, I took this photograph just over 3 weeks before the skyjacking. Dad, on the left, is “Cooper”…I wasn’t quite 15 years old when I took the picture. I’ll never forget the day. It was Saturday, October 30th 1971. I was outside on the Edmonds ferry dock selling newspapers. Next, Dad and Bud show up and basically kidnap me with an offer to buy me lunch. I was already starved, so I climbed into the back of my uncle’s car. Despite my protests my uncle Bud, with Dad to his right, drives me out to Snohomish airport, where we took off, with my uncle Bud at the controls, (Dad co-pilot), and I in the back in the rear cargo section. Immediately after taking off, and climbing, uncle Bud banks sharply to the right, flies out over Puget Sound, and begins circling. This goes on for quite some time. We seemed to be flying from Everett to Seattle, passing Edmonds, and sharp circles back to Everett. Dad and him were going over calculating and discussing about things, I, in the back, starving and wondering what they were up to! “Uncle Bud, Dad! What are you guys doing? Why are we flying
circles? I’m starving, when are we gonna eat? You said you’d buy me lunch, Uncle Bud!” Finally, Uncle Bud turns and says “Don’t worry Bradley, were going to land, we’ll get you lunch soon…
After we landed at Renton Municipal Airport, we entered the café, and only I had lunch, they had eaten earlier. After lunch, we walked out to the plane where I took the famous front cover photo. We took off, and landed back at Snohomish.
The main reason I enjoy telling this part of the story and sharing the photograph with people is because it’s all tells the story: What Dad and Bud really did that day was take me along with them during the “Final dress rehearsal” of what my dad did just over 3 weeks later. Complete with flying circles of Puget Sound and landing our small plane at Renton, only 3 miles from Sea-Tac Airport, where Dad had the Boeing -727 jet landing on the night of the skyjacking.
About the Author
Brad Collins was born in 1957 in Seattle, Washington. One of eight children born to Jack and Grace Collins, he has very fond memories of growing up, beaches, trout fishing, crabbing, gardening, and mountaineering were common activities of him and those who he grew up with, as well as plenty of aviation activities. He spent years in business, but later married and took up ranching and writing, his true passions. He lives on a beautiful ranch in the Olympic mountains with his wife Robin near Sequim, Washington.