Real Name: Unknown, Dan Cooper is believed to be an alias
Aliases: Dan Cooper
Wanted For: Hijacking, Theft
Missing Since: November 24, 1971
Details: On November 24, 1971, a man purchased a coach ticket on a Northwest Airlines Boeing 727 from Portland, Oregon. He paid in cash and claimed his name was "Dan Cooper". 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. Cooper opened his carry-on briefcase 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 claiming mechanical failure. 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, Cooper ordered the flight crew to release the passengers but continued to keep the captain and crew captive as he made a request for four parachutes and $200,000 in cash weighing over twenty pounds. He then had the plane take off again, having it stay at a speed of 200 mph. 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. A plastic sign from a Boeing 727 and a parachute were discovered in the woods near the bail-out area, and in 1980, some of the marked cash was found dredged in the mud near the Columbia River. 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.
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.".
Results: Unsolved. 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 ruled as 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. The case will remain open until either there is proof Cooper was killed by the sky jump or his identity is established and there is proof of his death or survival.