Real Name: Unknown, Dan Cooper is believed to be an alias
Aliases: Dan Cooper
Wanted For: Hijacking, Theft
Missing Since: November 24, 1971
Details: At 2PM on November 24, 1971, a man purchased a one-way coach ticket on a Northwest Airlines Boeing 727 from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington. He paid in cash and claimed his name was "Dan Cooper". The only luggage he carried was an attache case. Once the plane was in flight, he handed a note to Florence Shaffner, a stewardess, who thought little of it at first, as stewardesses sometimes were slipped phone numbers by male passengers. At one point Cooper quietly told Shaffner "Miss, you better take a look at that note", which told that he had a bomb in his attache case.
Cooper opened his carry-on attache case to reveal sticks of dynamite, and ordered Shaffner to pass the note to the captain, but for her and the other crew members not to spread alarm; acting casual and behaving as if nothing was out of the ordinary. The note also ordered the captain to divert the plane to Seattle, which the pilots did, informing air traffic control of the hijacking. However, they told the passengers that they were diverting due to mechanical failure. Cooper also requested four parachutes (two front pack and two back pack) and $200,000 in cash, asking that the plane not land until the requests were met.
The FBI put together the ransom money. Each bill was photographed and the serial numbers were recorded. Cooper insisted that the plane be immediately re-fueled upon landing in Seattle. He wanted the plane to stay on the runway, and not be taxied to the terminal. He also did not want any of the passengers released until his demands were met. At 5:43PM, the plane landed at the Seattle airport. The plane was parked in a remote area of the field.
While the passengers grumbled, they never suspected they were hijacked until being on terra firma when they were interrogated by the FBI (for composite information about Cooper). Once on the ground, an FBI agent took the money and parachutes to one of the flight attendants, who then took the items to Cooper. No one knew that one of the parachutes was defective. The FBI was worried that he would use the chutes to take hostages.
Finally, he ordered the flight crew to release the passengers but continued to keep the captain and one of the flight attendants captive. He then had the plane take off again at 7:37PM, having it fly from Seattle to Mexico City at a height of 10,000 feet and a speed of 200 mph. He agreed to stop for re-fueling in Reno, Nevada. He also requested to have the back stairwell down. However, the plane could not fly in this condition, so it was not done. At around 8:10PM over the Lewis River in southern Washington, Cooper opened the rear exit door while in flight and jumped with the cash, no visible protective gear and only a parachute into obscurity. He, the money and parachutes were never seen again.
To date, this is the only unsolved sky-jacking in the history of aviation. The FBI thoroughly investigated the case, chasing several leads and suspects. The press dubbed this character "D.B. Cooper," who was only known on the flight manifest as Dan Cooper. No one could find a trace of him nor locate any of the stolen traceable cash.
In November of 1978, a plastic sign from a Boeing 727 were discovered in the woods near the bail-out area. Fifteen months later, on February 10, 1980, some of the marked cash was found dredged in the mud near the Columbia River, twenty-five miles from his apparent jump point. These clues suggest to some that Cooper either perished in the woods or landed in the Columbia and drowned. However, others believe from his coolness and planning that he actually survived and got away with one of the most daring crimes of the twentieth century.
Some believe that he would have been unable to navigate the difficult terrain that he landed in, especially if he was injured and wearing only a business suit. However, some of have suggested that he may have been wearing more suitable clothing underneath that would have helped him.
There have been several theories as to who Cooper really was. One suspect was Richard McCoy, who hijacked a plane in April of 1972. He extorted $500,000, but was arrested during his hijacking attempt. After he escaped from prison several months later, he was killed in a gun battle with the FBI. Due to the similarities in the crimes and their photos, some believe that McCoy and Cooper are one in the same.
When Unsolved Mysteries re-examined the case, they had a new composite made of the famous artist one of the Cooper. Working with a new forensic artist, they gave Florence Schaffner, the stewardess to which he handed the note, a chance to recommission a new likeness. Most of the Americans who heard his voice said that he had a Mid-Western accent. It was also believed that due to Cooper's demand for parachutes and his escape that the man was a military veteran, likely certified as a paratrooper.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the October 12, 1988 episode. It was also profiled on Brad Meltzer's Decoded on the History Channel, and Unsolved History on the Discovery Channel. It also inspired the movies The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper (1981) with Treat Williams and Without A Paddle (2004) with Seth Green and Matthew Lillard and influenced an episode of the TV-Series, "Leverage.". It was also parodied in the series "Drunk History" along with the Agatha Christie and Circleville Writer cases.
Results: Wanted. Due to the high publicity of the case, several suspects were considered, which was fueled by multiple widows claiming their late husbands confided to them on their deathbeds that they were "Dan Cooper". John Emil List, a man who murdered his wife, children, and mother in 1971 and ran wild before being arrested in 1990, was also considered a suspect on the basis that those murders were committed in 1971, the same year as the Cooper skyjacking, and that Cooper demanded $200,000, which was about the same amount as the mortgage on List's property and other debts. However, after imprisonment List denied his involvement with the Cooper affair, and he was eventually ruled out as a suspect.
Reports in 2011 have say that the FBI has put their focus on a new suspect, a man by the name of Lynn Doyle Cooper who passed away in 1999. Due to a lack of leads, the FBI closed their investigation into the case in 2016. However, since then, there still have been new leads and possible suspects identified, including Robert Rackstraw and Walter Reca. The FBI has not commented on these individuals.
- D.B. Cooper on Unsolved.com
- D.B. Cooper on Wikipedia
- D.B. Cooper on the FBI Website
- Hijacking by D.B. Copper still a mystery
- The FBI Agent Who Has Tracked D.B. Cooper for Nine Years Retires
- Suspect in Family-Slaying May Be Famed D.B. Cooper
- FBI working new lead in D.B. Cooper hijacking case
- The FBI closes D.B. Cooper case
- The D.B. Cooper case baffled investigators for decades. Now, scientists have a new theory.
- A new ‘D.B. Cooper’ suspect? Yet another possible identity for the elusive hijacker