(PCM) Many are familiar with the mysterious case of airplane hijacker D.B. Cooper, which currently remains the only unsolved airplane hijacking case in United States history and has led to thousands of conspiracy theories and ended in nothing but dead ends for FBI investigators. On November 24, 1971 an unidentified man, who called himself Dan Cooper, hijacked a Boeing 727 in the air as it was travelling from Portland, OR to Seattle, Washington. It was due to a miscommunication with the media that he became known as “D.B. Cooper” rather than “Dan Cooper” and the name “D.B. Cooper” has become permanently associated with the case.
Cooper was able to extort $200,000 in ransom money, as well as, several parachutes which he used to jump out of the plane and make his escape. Despite there being a massive manhunt for the man calling himself Dan Cooper no conclusive evidence has ever surfaced regarding Cooper’s true identity or whereabouts to this day. Only small shreds of any type of concrete evidence have surfaced in this case with the biggest break coming in the year 1980 when $5,800 of the Cooper ransom money was discovered in an area known as Tena Lake near Ariel, Washingon by an eight-year old boy by the name of Brian Ingram.
The young boy was on vacation with his family in the area and was raking the sandy riverbank in order to help make a campfire when he discovered three packets of the ransom cash. The money packets were severely disintegrated, however the serial numbers on the bills matched those associated with the D.B. Cooper ransom money and they were still bound together by rubber bands in the same order that they were given to Cooper. It is still very much a mystery to investigators as to just how the money ended up in the area of Tena Lake as it is no where near the supposed flight path of the hijacked plane.
Some feel that the money was brought to the area due to a dredging project that occurred in the area, but others feel that the money may have been placed there by another person or even a wild animal. Some say Cooper, himself, may have dropped the money in that particular area, as he knew it was marked therefore knew it could not be spent.
Another small piece of evidence was discovered prior to the ransom money back in 1978, when a deer hunter discovered a placard containing instructions for lowering the aft stairs of a 727 in what would have been an area somewhere along the flight path of the Cooper hijacked plane. Over the years there have been several theories as to what exactly happened on that mysterious evening of November 24th and whatever happened to the elusive D.B. Cooper.
The FBI has revealed some previously undisclosed information about the case such as the fact that a partial DNA profile had been obtained from three organic samples found on the hijacker’s clip-on tie in 2001. The Bureau also made public a file of previously unreleased evidence, including Cooper’s 1971 plane ticket from Portland to Seattle (price: $18.52 plus tax, total $20.00, paid in cash). They also revealed that Cooper chose the older of the two primary parachutes supplied to him, rather than the technically superior professional sport parachute; and that from the two reserve parachutes, he selected a “dummy”—an unusable unit with an inoperative ripcord intended for classroom demonstrations, although it had clear markings identifying it to any experienced skydiver as non-functional. (He cannibalized the other, functional reserve parachute, possibly using its shrouds to tie the money bag shut and to secure the bag to his body as witnessed by flight attendant Tina Mucklow. The FBI stressed that inclusion of the dummy reserve parachute, one of four obtained in haste from a Seattle skydiving school, was accidental.
What makes this all the more strange is that the owner of the Seattle skydiving school that the parachutes were obtained from was found dead in his home in 2013, the victim of an apparent burglary. Many D.B. Cooper conspiracy theorist claim that Cooper was behind the crime as some sort of twisted pay back for the dummy parachute as his killer has never been found.
The physical description of D.B. Cooper has not changed over the years, however if he is still alive today he would have aged considerably. FBI agents speculate that Cooper was familiar with the terrain in the Seattle area and may have been an Air Force veteran due to his knowledge of the distance to McCord Airforce Base from the Seattle-Tacoma airport which he revealed to flight attendant Mucklow while on-board the plane. There is also speculation that he chose his alias based upon the Belgian comic book character Dan Cooper, who was a fictional superhero who took part in numerous heroic adventures, including parachuting.
While not available in the U.S., Cooper could have discovered the comic book while on a tour of duty overseas or he was a resident in Canada where the comic book was sold. Witnesses say he had no accent, but did request that the ransom money be delivered in “negotiable American currency” not something a U.S. resident would necessarily say, leading investigators to believe that he may have actually been of Canadian decent.
The FBI task force believes that Cooper was a careful and shrewd planner. He demanded four parachutes to force the assumption that he might compel one or more hostages to jump with him, thus ensuring he would not be deliberately supplied with sabotaged equipment. He chose a 727-100 aircraft because it was ideal for a bail-out escape, due not only to its aft airstair, but also the high, aftward placement of all three engines, which allowed a reasonably safe jump without risk of immediate incineration by jet exhaust. It had “single-point fueling” capability, a recent innovation that allowed all tanks to be refueled rapidly through a single fuel port. It also had the ability (unusual for a commercial jet airliner) to remain in slow, low-altitude flight without stalling; and Cooper knew how to control its air speed and altitude without entering the cockpit, where he could have been overpowered by the three pilots. In addition, Cooper was familiar with important details, such as the appropriate flap setting of 15 degrees (which was unique to that aircraft), and the typical refueling time. He knew that the aft airstair could be lowered during flight—a fact never disclosed to civilian flight crews, since there was no situation on a passenger flight that would make it necessary—and that its operation, by a single switch in the rear of the cabin, could not be overridden from the cockpit.
Finally, Coopers timing was ideal for the situation, as no one matching his description was reported missing over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend that year, so therefore he could have just returned to his normal day job without raising any suspicions. He would have plenty of time to get out of the woods, find transportation and get back home. He was wearing a suit and this leads to the theory that he may have thought it was easier to get picked up hitchhiking while wearing a suit rather than just a pair of jeans.
There have been many suspects and claims from individuals that say they have insider information about D.B. Coopers true identity and whereabouts however nothing completely concrete has ever come to the surface. What do you think happened to D.B. Cooper? Do you think he survived the jump? If not, why has a body never been discovered? The case is truly one of the great American mysteries and one that may truly never reach a conclusion!