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D. B. Cooper is a man who staged a daring hijacking in 1971 which culminated with an escape from the rear stairs of a Boeing 727 while the plane was in flight. Cooper was never apprehended, and the case, known as “Norjak” by the FBI, is one of the more interesting unsolved mysteries in American history. The FBI continues to investigate the case, and in 2007, new information on D. B. Cooper was released, in the hopes of cracking the case once and for all.
On 24 November, 1971, Dan Cooper boarded a plane flying from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. Once the plane was in flight, he passed a message to a stewardess, indicating that he had a bomb and that the plane was being hijacked. He demanded four parachutes and $200,000 US, which Northwest Orient, the airline operating the flight, agreed to provide after extended negotiations held while the plane hovered over Puget Sound.
At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Cooper released the passengers of the flight while the money and parachutes were loaded and the plane was refueled. He demanded to be taken to Mexico City, and after being informed by the flight crew that the plane wouldn't be able to make that distance, he settled on Reno, Nevada. Cooper also requested that the cabin be left unpressurized, suggesting that he might try and make an escape from the plane while in flight.
At 8:13 PM, D. B. Cooper did just that, lowering the rear stairs of the aircraft and jumping out, never to be seen again. His jump went unnoticed by Air Force jets trailing the aircraft, and the precise location of his projected landing was difficult to ascertain. Despite over a year of searching in the region where he disappeared, D. B. Cooper was never seen again, although some of the money was found in 1980.
It is believed that Cooper probably perished in his attempt, given the fact that he was poorly dressed for skydiving, and the visibility conditions that night were very bad, which would have made it difficult to manage a controlled landing. The name “Dan Cooper” was clearly an alias, and despite releasing images of Cooper and later using DNA testing to try and identify him, the FBI was never able to figure out who D. B. Cooper really was, let alone what happened to him.
The D. B. Cooper case sparked a number of copycat attempts, along with some reforms in the airline industry, including the Cooper vane, a device which prevents the stairs of aircraft from being opened while the plane is in flight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is D. B. Cooper?
D. B. Cooper is the alias used by an unidentified individual who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft in the airspace between Portland and Seattle on November 24, 1971. After receiving a $200,000 ransom and four parachutes, Cooper parachuted from the plane's aft airstairs and vanished. Despite an extensive manhunt and FBI investigation, the perpetrator's true identity and fate remain unknown, making it one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in the annals of American crime.
What happened during the D. B. Cooper hijacking?
On the afternoon of November 24, 1971, a man using the name Dan Cooper boarded Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305, bound for Seattle. He passed a note to a flight attendant claiming he had a bomb and then showed her a briefcase with wires and red sticks. After landing in Seattle, he exchanged the passengers for the ransom and parachutes, instructed the crew to fly to Mexico City, and then parachuted into the night over the dense Pacific Northwest forest. The plane landed safely, but Cooper's whereabouts remain a mystery.
What efforts have been made to solve the D. B. Cooper case?
The FBI launched one of its longest and most exhaustive investigations, code-named NORJAK (Northwest Hijacking). They analyzed fingerprints, interviewed thousands of suspects, and scoured the drop zone area. In 1980, a young boy found a decaying package of $20 bills from the ransom money along the Columbia River, which reignited interest but ultimately provided no conclusive leads. The FBI officially closed the investigation in 2016, citing a lack of new information.
Has any evidence been found related to D. B. Cooper?
Aside from the recovered ransom money along the Columbia River, other pieces of potential evidence have surfaced over the years. A placard with instructions for lowering the aft stairs of a 727 was found in 1978, and in 2017, volunteer investigators uncovered what they believed to be a decades-old parachute strap in the Pacific Northwest. However, none of these findings have definitively solved the mystery of Cooper's identity or his ultimate fate.
Why has the D. B. Cooper case remained so compelling?
The D. B. Cooper case has captivated the public and media for decades due to its unique blend of audacity, mystery, and the absence of violence. Cooper's successful extortion and subsequent disappearance without a trace is unparalleled in aviation history. The case has inspired numerous books, documentaries, and theories, each trying to piece together the puzzle of Cooper's identity and whether he survived the daring escape, making it a fixture of American folklore and criminal lore.