The Curious Case of D.B. Cooper

What Happened?

On the 24th of November, 1971, a nondescript man bought a ticket under the alias Dan Cooper (who later came to be known by his pseudonym, D.B. Cooper) for a Boeing 727 aircraft at Portland, Oregon bound for Seattle, Washington in the USA. Thus began one of the great unsolved mysteries in FBI history which puzzles people to this day.

Cooper was a quiet man who appeared to be in his 40s, wearing a business suit with a black tie and white shirt. He settled down into his seat and ordered a bourbon and soda drink while waiting for the flight to take off. A while later, he handed the flight attendant a note informing her that he had a bomb in his suitcase, and that he wanted her to sit next to him. The flight attendant did as she was told and took the seat next to him. Cooper opened his suitcase, revealing a bunch of wires and red sticks, proving to the flight attendant that his suitcase did in fact comprise of a bomb.

He then communicated his demands to the flight attendant and made her write them down. Cooper had demanded 4 parachutes and $200,000 in $20 bills on arrival at Sea-Tac Airport (Seattle). The flight attendant then notified the captain of the plane, who further communicated this information to the relevant authorities in Seattle. The police and ground forces in Seattle hurriedly assembled the money and parachutes to be delivered to Cooper. Meanwhile, the pilots were flying the aircraft in circles above Seattle Airport, with the fabricated excuse that there was some minor mechanical problem so they could not land safely. In reality, they were simply stalling for time as the money and parachutes were being brought in.

After about 3.5 hours of delay, the flight landed in Seattle and Cooper’s requirements were met immediately. With the money and parachutes delivered, he dismissed the 36 passengers in the aircraft, as well as 2 of the 6 crew members. After this, the aircraft refuelled, and Cooper ordered the pilots to set a new course for Mexico City via Reno and Yuma. Following his orders, the plane took off for the said destination.

While on course, on the first leg of the journey towards Reno, Cooper ordered all the remaining crew members to go and enter the cockpit of the plane. It was at this point of time that Cooper lowered the rear stairs of the airplane and jumped out of it wearing a parachute and carrying his $200,00 in ransom money. He had jumped at 8:00 p.m. straight into an ongoing thunderstorm and was never seen again, and his fate remains a mystery to this day. Although the most probable outcome is that he died, the possibility that he survived could not be ruled out due to lack of evidence of his death.

Furthermore, his real identity also remains an eternal mystery. The only traces Cooper left behind were some cigarette butts, a hair on the headrest of his seat, and his clip-on necktie. However, no DNA samples could be drawn from these items. The case was taken up by the FBI, and their investigation went on for decades and came to be known as the ‘NORJACK’ (Northwest Hijacking) case.

Conclusion to the Case

The only significant lead on this case came in 1980, when an 8-year-old boy wandering the banks of the Columbia River came across a rotting package full of $20 dollar bills amounting to $5,800. The serial numbers on the bills found by the boy matched those on the bills of money given to Cooper during the time of the hijacking, and so the FBI continued their investigations.

However, there were no more significant findings, and the FBI were not able to ascertain the real identity of D.B. Cooper even after following around 800 leads and questioning numerous suspects. Finally, in 2016, the FBI announced that it was giving up their investigations of this case and had decided to dedicate their resources to other cases.

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