(“Dan” is a living person who may or may not qualify as a public figure, so his real name will not be used here)
It’s more difficult to explain why Peters isn’t Dan Cooper than to give the myriad reasons why everyone believes he could be the famed hijacker. But, to wit: Peters was an experienced skydiver, he was trained as a smokejumper and pursued skydiving as a hobby. As a member of Boeing’s fledgling skydiving club, Peters did a skydive while wearing a business suit and carrying a heavy bag of flour (it was strapped to his body, and he did it to create a streak in the sky). This jump is very reminiscent of Cooper’s and as such, we can say he definitely had the means and mentality to jump out of a 727 wearing a suit and carrying a heavy sack of money.
Peters worked at Boeing in the Manuals and Handbooks group, and he did so while the 727 was being put through its trials. So he would have had the requisite aviation knowledge and the specific information on the 727 that Cooper appeared to have.
Most incredibly, Peters worked at Boeing at a time when abandoned mechanical equipment was left in large bins for employees to rummage through for their own use. Some of that equipment would certainly have been involved in some of the testing involving pure titanium being done at Boeing for the Supersonic Transport program (SST) going on at the time Peters worked there. Thus making Peters the only candidate other than Leclair who plausibly accounts for the titanium particles found on Cooper’s tie. Not surprisingly, he has remained a popular suspect. In fact, he is the only suspect for whom there exists a plausible piece of physical evidence connecting him to this crime.
Peters had the dark complexion, receding hairline and basic physical characteristics of the hijacker. During his stint in Vietnam working for the State Department during the war, he became disillusioned with the American presence there and became a lifelong anti-war activist, something he continues to this day. This gives Peters a plausible motive for the crime. Other than having blue eyes, Peters is a perfect fit. So perfect, in fact, the FBI pegged him as a suspect soon after the hijacking.
By all accounts, the FBI’s Norjak investigation was thorough. If they suspected Peters at all, they would have shown his photo to eyewitnesses, among other things. Nothing came of it, and Peters has remained a free man. In 2002, Peters’ DNA was collected by the FBI and tested against the samples found on Cooper’s tie. There was no match. After thirty years, the FBI completely eliminated Peters as a suspect.
Cooper sleuths eagerly await the updated edition of Peters’s autobiography for a possible departing confession (He is in his nineties now, but in decent health). Regardless, I think it’s safe to say he’s not Dan Cooper.