On November 24, 1971, a man who identified himself as “Dan Cooper” boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 305. The short flight was scheduled to go from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, in only half an hour.
However, Cooper had other plans for the commercial jetliner. Once the plane was in the air, he showed a receptionist a note that suggested he had a bomb in his briefcase and demanded $200,000.
The mystery of “DB Cooper” persists to this day. The culprit has never been identified, and the authorities have only recovered some of the money. So, who was DB Cooper, and how did he get away with so much money?
Employees on the airliner would later describe Cooper as a well-dressed, polite man who treated the employees on the plane with the utmost respect. He smoked a cigarette and drank his bourbon and soda while the plane was taking off before gently handing a flight attendant a note.
The 23-year-old woman just pocketed the message and assumed the businessman in his mid-40s was flirting with her by handing her his number.
Cooper quietly insisted, “Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.” He then showed her an apparatus in his briefcase that was full of wires, which she presumed was an explosive device.
Cooper demanded $200,000 in US currency, four parachutes, and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the plane. Cooper didn’t make a scene, and the other passengers were unaware of the hijacking. The airliner’s captain contacted ground control, who authorized full cooperation.
When the plane touched down in Seattle, Cooper told all the passengers and most of the crew to go home. He took the money from the authorities and asked for the pilot to plot a course to Mexico, and make a refueling stop in Nevada. When the plane was back in the air, with Cooper as the only passenger in the cabin, he lowered the rear stairs and leaped into the night with his parachute strapped on.
The authorities launched a massive manhunt for the criminal, including an investigation into a local man named DB Cooper. This person wasn’t involved in the crime, but his name became so heavily associated with the case that most people in the public forgot the name “Dan Cooper,” the criminal’s actual alias, altogether.
Cooper was never seen or heard from again. The authorities only ever recovered a handful of bills from the ransom, and some speculate that the hijacker simply died when he jumped from the moving plane. No one has ever found the parachute or a body, though, so others suggest Cooper might have made it out safely after all.