The Mystery of D.B. Cooper's Plane Hijacking

One of the biggest unsolved mysteries of the 20th century is the mystery of D.B. Cooper. This is the name of an unidentified person who hijacked a plane in the middle of the flight, extorted $200,000 for ransom and parachuted out of the plane and was never seen again. Nobody knows what happened to this man and the mystery of D.B. Cooper remains unsolved. The FBI has left the case open ever since it’s happened and the case file has grown to over 60 volumes. Many people think he may have died on the jump, while others think he made a clean getaway and is still out there today.

The Mystery of D.B. Cooper: The Crime

The events that we know behind the mystery of D.B. Cooper started on November 24, 1971, which was Thanksgiving eve. At Portland International Airport in Oregon a man who wasD.B. Cooper Profile PictureCredit: Wikipedia carrying a black suitcase bought a ticket under the name Dan Cooper. He purchased a one-way ticket on Flight 305 that was just a 30 Minute trip to Seattle, Washington. After he boarded the plane he lit up a cigarette and ordered a bourbon and soda. Eyewitnesses say he looked to be in his mid-forties around 5 feet 10 inches tall, wearing a black raincoat and a dark suit with a black necktie. After the flight took off at about 2:50pm and was about a third of the way through the flight he passed a note to a flight attendant who was sitting near him in a jump seat. She didn’t know what the note was and thought it was a phone number so she put it in her purse and didn’t look at it. At this time, the man told her that she better look at it because he has a bomb.

The note was written in red pen and said that he had a bomb in his briefcase and he will use it. The note also told the flight attendant to sit next to him because he was hijacking the plane. He then cracked open the briefcase slightly and she got a glimpse of eight red cylinders inside with wire attached to a battery. He then stated that he demanded $200,000 in “negotiable American currency” with four parachutes and a fuel truck to be standing by when they arrive in Seattle. The flight attendant relayed the instructions to the cockpit and the pilots contacted the Seattle-Tacoma Airport control tower. The control tower then let the Federal authorities know that the plane had been hijacked with 36 other passengers on board. These other passengers were told that the arrival in Seattle would be delayed due to a minor mechanical difficulty.

The president of Northwest Orient, Donald Nyrop, authorized the payment of the ransom and ordered everyone involved to fully cooperate with the hijacker. After circling Puget Sound for about two hours, the Seattle police and the FBI told the plane to land because they had the parachutes, the fuel truck, and the money ready. The FBI got the ransom money from several Seattle-area banks and it was in the form of 10,000 unmarked $20 bills. The parachutes they brought were military issue, which Cooper refused and ordered them to bring civilian parachutes with manual rip chords. Authorities got these parachutes from a local skydiving school. At 5:39pm the plane landed at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport and Cooper instructed the pilots to taxi the jet to a place on the tarmac that was brightly lit and to turn off the lights in the cabin so that snipers could not see inside. Northwest operations manager, Al Lee, walked up to the aircraft and delivered the money and the parachutes up the aft stairs. One this was completed, Cooper said that all passengers could get off the plane.

After refueling, Cooper ordered the flight crew to take off and head towards Mexico City going as slow as they could without stalling. Cooper wanted to take off with the staircase down but the flight crew said it was unsafe and that he should put it down once they were in the air. At around 7:40pm the jet took off with only Cooper, the pilot and copilot, a flight engineer, and a flight attendant on board. Authorities scrambled two T-33 Trainer jets to follow the plane out of Cooper’s view. Cooper told everyone to remain in the cockpit and not to open the door. At around 8:00pm a light in the cockpit turned on indicating that the aft door was open. At 10:15pm, while still in the cockpit with the aft air stair door still down they landed the plane to find that Cooper was not on the plane.

The Mystery of D.B Cooper: Searching for Cooper

The man known as Dan Cooper was described as a very nice, calm man who did not fit the typical stereotypes of a hijacker. “He wasn’t nervous. He seemed rather nice. He was never cruel or nasty. He was thoughtful and calm all the time.” One of the flight attendants told FBI investigators. He even paid his drink tab with a tip, and offered to request meals for the flight crew while they were stopped in Seattle. After it was realized that he was not on the planeMoney Stolen by D.B. Cooper and Recovered by the FBICredit: Wikipedia anymore authorities scrambled a huge manhunt to try and find the man. A man with the name D.B. Cooper had a minor police record in Portland, Oregon and authorities contacted him suspecting that he could have used his real name. He was quickly dismissed as a suspect but a reporter, who was rushing to meet a deadline, used the name D.B. Cooper as the suspects name instead of the actual name he used, Dan Cooper. This is how the name came to be in the mystery. After thorough investigation, countless wind speed experts, skydiving experts, and even re-creations of the jump from the plane, nobody knows what happened to the man. In 1978, the only amount of ransom money ever recovered was found by a hunter in the woods. It was two packets of 100 $20 bills that were still in the rubber bands. They had been decomposed significantly but the serial numbers matched the ones given to the hijacker.

The Mystery of D.B. Cooper: The Case Remains OpenD.B. Cooper Age Progresion Profile PhotoCredit: Wikipedia

Some reports say that the parachute used was actually a dummy chute that was given to him by mistake from the skydiving school. Others say that he made the landing and a clean getaway. One thing is for sure, the FBI case is not closed and the mystery of D.B. Cooper remains. We will just have to wait and see if the mystery of Dan Cooper is ever solved.