By Saul Roth
Dan Cooper, also known as D.B.; a criminal who in 1971 hijacked an airplane and then parachuted out with the ransom money.
D.B., or “Dan” Cooper became widely known as the man who took control of Northwest Orient flight 925 on its way from Portland Oregon to Chicago airspace and over rural Montana where it landed safely after what had seemed like a routine takeoff.
On November 24, 1971 a man with no identity bought $20 worth of plane tickets from Northwest Orient Airlines. He identified himself as “Dan Cooper” which, as it turned out, wasn’t actually his real name.
The man soon after takeoff from Portland handed a note to one of the flight attendants, claiming that he had bombs in his briefcase. He proceeded to open an attaché case; its only contents inside were numerous wires and red sticks.
Cooper released the 36 passengers when authorities provided him with money and parachutes. He forced two pilots, a flight engineer, and an Air Force veteran to remain on board as insurance for any potential evacuation problem, but not before taking their wallets from them.
The crew of the flight was not aware that their passenger had disappeared until they landed in Mexico City. They were ordered to fly under 10k feet at 200 Knots by Cooper who then jumped out after landing.
While the FBI was initially convinced that Cooper knew both planes and jumping, it became evident to them he wasn’t an experienced skydiver. It appeared as if their theory about him being in military service quickly dropped.
The agency looked at about 800 suspects in the first five years. All were eliminated. Some were ruled out on the basis of DNA that was eventually recovered from the tie that Cooper took off before jumping. One prime suspect was Richard Floyd McCoy who was arrested for similar crimes several months later but couldn’t be accused since he didn’t match descriptions provided by two flight attendants.
The theories surrounding Cooper’s fate vary. Some believe he survived, others said that it was impossible for him to do so in such high-altitude winds and with only one parachute at his disposal. Even if he managed somehow to land after jumping out of the airplane without being conscious, most people would suffer from hypoxia (a lack or adequate supply oxygen). The woods are also very dense there which makes navigating difficult.
The Columbia River bank was once a destination for outdoorsmen. Its banks had been the site of many adventures and discoveries. But on November 24th 1980, one man’s adventure would turn into legend when DB Cooper left his mark there by leaving $5 800 in cash along with some personal belongings which were all discovered buried near what is now called ” D.B. Cooper Lake.”
Despite extensive searches, nothing else related to the case has ever come up.
This unsolved mystery fascinated not only America but also around world, resulting in countless books and movies to be made about it.