D.B. Cooper, also known as Dan Cooper, was a criminal who hijacked a commercial flight from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, in 1971 and then parachuted off with the ransom money. A search operation occurred, but the hijacker was never identified or arrested, leaving one of America’s biggest unsolved mysteries. The suspect assumed the name Dan Cooper, but a reporter misheard the name as D.B. Cooper, which became widely used in later news reports.
A “nondescript” man in his mid-40s, about 6 feet tall (1.83 metres), purchased a $20 ticket on Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 on November24,1971, the day before Thanksgiving. He gave the identity Dan Cooper, which was later revealed to be a fake.
He gave the identity Dan Cooper, which was later revealed to be a fake. He handed a note to a flight attendant shortly after departure from Portland, claiming to have a bomb in his briefcase. He then opened the attaché case, which contained a battery, multiple wires, and red sticks.
Cooper demanded four parachutes and $200,000 in $20 bills (equivalent to around $1.2 million in today’s money). Cooper freed the 36 passengers once the plane landed in Seattle and officials delivered the money and parachutes. However, he insisted on keeping two pilots, a flight engineer, and a flight attendant on board.
He told the pilots to fly to Mexico City when it refueled. The plane went below 10,000 feet at a speed of less than 200 knots, as per his instructions. Around 8:00 PM, while between Seattle and Reno, Nevada—widely believed to be near Ariel, Washington—Cooper lowered the rear steps and jumped. After that, he vanished.
The FBI launched what would become known as NORJAK, “one of the longest and most extensive investigations” in its history (Northwest Hijacking). Cooper was initially suspected of knowing both planes and the area, and it was assumed that he had served in the military, possibly as a paratrooper.
Later, it was determined that he was not an experienced skydiver because the jump was too dangerous, and he failed to notice that his reserve parachute had been sewn shut for use in training. In the first five years, the agency investigated 800 suspects, with practically all of them being ruled out.
Some were ruled out based on DNA retrieved from the tie Cooper threw away before jumping. Richard Floyd McCoy, who was arrested for a similar crime a few months later, was one of the main suspects. He was, however, ruled out as a suspect, owing to the fact that he did not match the descriptions offered by two flight attendants. (While serving his term, McCoy created a fake gun and attempted to flee the prison, but was shot and killed by law enforcement.)
Cooper, who was dressed in a business suit, trench coat, and loafers, was thought to have died. The winds were more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) per hour at that altitude, and the parachute he was using couldn’t be guided.
He would also have landed in a rough, highly forested location. Investigators got a break in 1980 when a youngster discovered a decaying package containing $5,800, after years of dead ends. It was buried north of Portland, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from Ariel, along the Columbia River.
The serial numbers on the money, which were all $20 bills, matched the ransom notes. However, despite a thorough search, nothing more was discovered. Despite the fact that the FBI continued to receive tips, the investigation was officially terminated in 2016, with the FBI noting that its resources would be better spent on other cases.
The unresolved mystery fascinated the nation, and D.B. Cooper became a folk hero who inspired many songs, novels, and films.
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