HomeD.B. Cooper Mystery: What Happened and Where is He Now?

D.B. Cooper Mystery: What Happened and Where is He Now?

Many criminal masterminds have continued to astonish the world but D.B. Cooper goes down in history! Cooper’s name appears once again in our minds as Netflix released “DB Cooper: Where Are You?!” on Wednesday (July 13). So if you don’t know about DB Cooper, here is the greatest mystery that remains unsolved.

Who Is D.B. Cooper?

D.B. Cooper went down in history on the eve of Thanksgiving in 1971. Since then, authorities have been unable to trace this man. FYI, D.B. Cooper is a media epithet used to refer to an unidentified man who hijacked the Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 on the afternoon of November 24, 1971.

Cooper was on the aircraft, flying from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. He parachuted with $200,000 in ransom, after making”specific demands” to Northwest Orient’s president, Donald Nyrop. Since then, his whereabouts remain unknown. What we know is that he was a man in a dark business suit who handed over a note to a flight attendant stating that he has a bomb and will blow up the aircraft if his demands are not met.

The case remains the only unsolved skyjacking in the history of commercial air travel. It has been 50 years since the bizarre incident took place and many have confessed to being Dan Cooper. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation could not solve the mystery behind this man to date. Even though they quietly examined several of these cases by checked fingerprints against the unknown prints from the hijacked plane, so far, there has been no match.

All About Cooper’s Stunt…

D.B. Cooper’s identity remains unknown despite years-long investigation. What he did in 1971, still lingers in the minds of the authorities. The incident goes back to November 24, 1971, when around 4:00 p.m. a well-dressed man calling himself Dan Cooper entered Portland International airport as he bought a one-way ticket to  Seattle-Tacoma Airport for $20.

The Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 was carrying 36 passengers that day, including the pilot, Captain William Scott, first officer Bob Rataczak, flight engineer H.E. Anderson, and two flight attendants, Tina Mucklow and Florence Schaffner.

As per the description by the crew members and passengers, an accent-less, middle-aged, white male in a dark suit and tie, Cooper did not draw much attention as he mingled among the crowd. After takeoff, he handed one of the flight attendants, named Florence Schaffner, a note. Schaffner carelessly placed the note as mild flirting was common in airlines but little did she know that everything would change after that.

The bag containing parachutes provided to Cooper

The next time Florence passed Cooper, he asked her to come closer and told her that she better give the note a look and warned her of having a bomb in his suitcase. She then read the note and shared it with the other flight attendants. They both took the note to the pilot, who immediately contacted air traffic control. Well, the note read in the end “no funny business”.

The air traffic control contacted the Seattle police and the matter was finally handed over to the FBI, who then placed an urgent call to the airline’s president Donald Nyrop, who said they should comply with Cooper’s demands. Doubtless, Nyrop wanted to avoid any negative publicity that such a disaster would bring.

What Were Cooper’s Precise Demands?

Eyewitnesses narrate that D.B. Cooper was very specific with his demands. The handwritten note, which was taken back by Cooper, read that he demanded  $200,000 in cash and two sets of parachutes. Cooper wanted these items delivered on arrival at Seattle-Tacoma Airport and claimed that if they didn’t comply with these demands, he would blow up the plane.

In fact, Cooper was very specific about the bills. He wanted the $200,000 in $20 bills, which would weigh around 21 pounds. The reason was plain and simple. Smaller bills would add extra weight during his skydive while larger ones would weigh less. However, such bills would be difficult to pass.

Cooper also stated that the bills should have random serial numbers and should begin with the code letter L. Well, reading this will make you understand that everything was premeditated. Coming back to the story, Cooper moved next to the window and opened his suitcase so the flight attendant could get a glimpse of wires and two cylinders that looked like dynamic sticks.

And guess what, acquiring parachutes was a lot harder than getting these bills. Even though Tacoma’s McChord Air Force Base offered to provide the parachutes but Cooper rejected the offer. Well, this too had a reason. He wanted civilian parachutes with user-operated ripcords and not the military-issued ones. Seattle cops managed to arrange civilian ones from a skydiving school.

Cooper proceeded to the cockpit and told the pilot to stay in the air until the money and parachutes were ready. The pilot announced over the intercom that the jet would circle before landing due to a mechanical problem. In the meantime, most of the passengers were unaware of the hijacking.

Cooper’s Insane Skydive…

The tie Cooper removed before the skydive

Cooper had an extra parachute so authorities thought that he might jump with one of the crew or passengers as an airborne hostage. Once, they thought of using dummy parachutes but they did not want to risk the lives of any civilians. At 5:24, the ground team was prepared with cash and parachutes, Cooper ordered the plane to be taxied to a remote, well-lit area after landing.

No vehicle approached the pane and the lights were also dimmed per Copper’s orders. After receiving the cash and parachutes, Cooper released the 36 passengers and flight attendant Florence Schaffner. However, he did not release the other flight attendant Tina Mucklow or the three men in the cockpit.

An FAA official contacted the captain and asked Cooper for permission to come aboard the jet. The official apparently wanted to warn him of the dangers and consequences of air piracy. Cooper denied his request. Cooper had Mucklow read over the instruction card for the operation of the aft stairs. When he questioned her about them, she said she didn’t think they could be lowered during flight. He said she was wrong.

Why did Cooper Choose A Boeing 727-100?

If you missed this, Cooper chose this flight for specific reasons. He knew a lot of the Boeing 727-100. Cooper ordered the pilot to remain below an altitude of 10,000 feet and to keep the airspeed below 150 knots. Well, a well-read person would know that a skydiver can easily dive at 150 knots. As the jet was lightweight, the aircraft would have no problem flying at such a slow speed through the dense air at 10,000 feet.

Cancelling the plan to go to Mexico City as the aircraft was running out of fuel, Cooper ordered the jet to be refuelled in Reno, Nevada. However, Captain Scott and Cooper negotiated a low-altitude route called Vector 23. This route allowed the jet to fly safely west of the mountains even at the low altitude that Cooper demanded.

After the captain depressurised the cabin, the plane took off at 7:46. Cooper ordered the flight attendant and the rest of the crew to stay in the cockpit. At 8.00 p.m., a red light gave a warning that a door was open but none could see what was happening as there were no cameras in the cockpit. Scott asked Cooper over the intercom if there was anything they could do for him. He replied with an angry “No!” That was the last word anyone ever heard from Dan Cooper.

The Investigation Reaped Zero Results…

 

 

The jet landed safely in Reno, Nevada with no lives lost but by then, Cooper was done with his skydiving plan. No one ever heard from him again. He still remains the biggest mystery in the history of commercial aviation. Even though the police attempted to follow the plane, nothing reaped results.

For several weeks, they continued to search criminal records but had no luck. However, a police record for an Oregon man named D.B. Cooper was discovered and considered a possible suspect. Although he was quickly cleared by the police, an eager and careless member of the press accidentally confused that man’s name for the alias given by the hijacker.

This simple mistake was then repeated by another reporter quoting that information, and so on and so on until the entire media was using the catchy moniker. And so, the original “Dan” Cooper became known as “D.B.” for the rest of the investigation.

Interestingly, the FBI launched an extensive investigation, dubbed NORJAK, for “Northwest Hijacking”. Hundreds of people were interviewed across the United States, even though the authorities considered over 800 suspects, but D.B. Cooper was never found.

Netflix’s ‘DB Cooper: Where Are You?!’

Netflix’s latest series explores the mystery of D.B. Cooper. The series premiered on July 13 and explores several theories about the fact that D.B. Cooper survived the jump. While it is discounted in the Netflix show, a drug dealer named Dick Briggs claimed he was DB Cooper.

The main suspect is a conman and former army pilot Robert Rackstraw, who’s had several identities. Many believe that Cooper did not survive the fall in the heavily forested parts of the States. As for the ransom money, some of the cash DB Cooper was given a serial number, but it never showed up in circulation.

A few thousand dollars were washed up on the banks of the Columbia River in 1980. So whether he is dead or alive is still a mystery, but the recent series gives you a lot more to think about. Watch it and let me know your thoughts.

Mallika
I am Mallika Singh, a lawyer and writer by profession. Writing gives me a sense of freedom and independence. I am a keen observer and an ardent reader. When not at work, you can find me at the stable. Horse riding is another passion that keeps me going.
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