In one of the most astonishing kidnappings in history, dating back 51 years, the amazing story of DB Cooper still baffles investigators. The FBI was unable to solve the case for 45 years before giving up in 2016. Amateur investigators in the United States have also been left scratching their heads over this mystery.
On November 24, 1971, 51 years ago today, D.B. Cooper sat in seat 18c on a Boeing 727 jetliner. He was dressed elegantly in a black suit, ironed white shirt and black tie with mother-of-pearl pin.
The Telegraph reported that after lighting a cigarette and ordering bourbon and soda, the man revealed a bomb in his bag and threatened to blow up the plane if his demand for $200,000 cash was not met.
$200,000, four parachutes and a truck of fuel, the kidnapper demands
Cooper then warned a crew member that he intended to hijack the plane, and made his demands clear: $200,000 in “negotiable currency”, four parachutes (two primary and two spare), and a truck of fuel. Be alert at Seattle Airport.
Although Cooper’s hijacking was not out of the ordinary for its time, what came next was unlike anything that had been seen before in terms of crime and air travel.
This man has not yet been arrested, and the case is still unresolved. In 2016, the FBI officially closed the investigation; however, a group of amateur detectives called the Kopprits (after Cooper) decided to take on the case themselves.
Recently, in November 2018, an anonymous individual purported to have discovered the solution to the puzzle. However, this person was not the first one to do so.
To recap, the pilot contacted Seattle Airport with Cooper’s requests, which were accepted by the authorities. Northwest Orient Airlines president Donald Nierop authorized the ransom and instructed the flight crew to cooperate fully with Cooper.
It’s important to realize that the hijacker was never actually called DB Cooper. He purchased his ticket as Dan Cooper, but due to a strange media mix-up, he was given the name DB Cooper and it has followed him ever since.
Release all passengers except the flight crew
Upon arriving at the Seattle airport, 10,000 unmarked $20 bills were given to Cooper (the FBI had made a microfilm copy of each bill), as well as umbrellas. parachutes were offered to him, but he refused the military ones and stated that he would only jump with civilian parachutes–which are opened using a rope.
After Cooper got what he wanted from the passengers and crew, he allowed everyone except for the pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, and flight attendant to leave. Then, he briefly explained his plan – which was to escape by parachuting out of the plane.
The negotiations started when the elegant man, who was described by flight attendant Tina McCullough as “rather nice” and “calm and thoughtful”, approached the flight crew. He requested that the plane fly southeast toward Mexico City at a slow speed and low altitude without any stops.
He demanded that it fly at a maximum altitude of 10,000 feet (approximately 3.04 km). According to reports, planes usually fly at an average altitude of 36,000 feet (approximately 10.9 km). He then ordered the landing wheels lowered and the wings set 15 degrees before depressurizing the cockpits..
But where did D.B. Cooper disappear to?
After some discussion, Cooper decided to adjust his destination to Reno, Nevada since the flight wasn’t able to make it safely to Mexico given the atmospheric conditions.
Cooper also argued that he should be allowed to leave the tailgate open with the ladder lowered, but Northwest Orient officials claimed it wasn’t safe for the plane to take off while the ladder was extended. The kidnapper didn’t agree at first, but eventually gave in and decided to lower it himself once they were in flight.
Two hours after the initial phone calls, the plane took off with 4 crew members andCooper on board. Two fighter planes followed suit, making sure to stay one above and one below Cooper’s view.
In-flight, he told Tina to join the other crew members in the cockpit and to keep door closed. 20 minutes into 8:00 pm flight, a warning light signaled that they needed to lower back ladder.
The team noticed a change in air pressure soon after the back door was open, indicating that it was not properly sealed. At 8:13 pm, the back of the plane shook violently; this forced the pilots to re-balance the plane and adjust its course.
The plane landed in Reno two hours later to be flanked by government officials, including deputy sheriffs and FBI officers. But there was no trace of Cooper anywhere.
His jump baffled the FBI
After the hijacker jumped out of the plane, there was a mass search for him that included simulations and an aerial survey.
Although it was estimated that Cooper would land near Lake Merwin in Washington, no trace of him has been found there.
When the FBI began their investigation, they assumed that Cooper had not survived the jump. “We thought Cooper was a professional skydiver, perhaps even a parachutist,” said Larry Carr, who led the case from 2006 until its close.
Our years-long investigation led us to the conclusion that this story was false. No paratrooper with experience would have jumped on a pitch-black, stormy night with winds up to 200 miles per hour wearing only loafers and a raincoat– it was far too dangerous.
He did not leave behind evidence to help the investigators track him down
The only clues the FBI had to go on were Cooper’s tie pin, 66 fingerprints, and two umbrellas he left on the plane. Instead of taking the main parachutes as intended, he made off with an experimental backup parachute from a local bargain store – oops!
On the bank of the Columbia River in 1980, an 8 year old boy discovered 3 bundles of money. After doing some research, the FBI found out that this was part of a ransom given to Cooper. They have not been able to find anymore evidence since then even though they have searched through the serial numbers widely.
But 46 years later, amazing evidence has emerged!
In 2016, the FBI closed their case on D.B. Cooper, although last year they agreed to examine a “weird buried piece of rubber” that is suspected to be part of his parachute.
The discovery of this piece in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest has led to renewed speculation about that case, even though the FBI has not commented.
There are too many theories and conspiracies surrounding the mysterious case of D.B. Cooper to list here, including the most recent one that he may still be alive and on the run.
After the skyjacking, approximately 15 criminals attempted to recreate Cooper’s scheme but failed miserably and were apprehended by police.