D. B. Cooper

31 Jul 09 5 Comments

The other day, Paul Tocknell from Ask a CFI.com made a throw-away comment on Twitter:

Just learned about the D.B. Cooper story. Crazy.

As I am easily distracted, I wandered off to find out who D.B. Cooper was and spent the rest of the day reading about the only unsolved hijacking case in the US.

Paul is right, the story is crazy and fascinating. In an attempt to justify the amount of time I spent reading about the the man and his disappearance, I’ve compiled this set of links on the web to share with you.

The Full Story

D.B. Cooper, the legendary skyjacker – extortionist – Crime Library on truTV.com

Cooper handed a note to Flo Schaffner moments after the jet was airborne. Men traveling alone often passed phone or hotel room numbers to the attractive young stewardess. She assumed another come-on and gave the note her usual treatment, sticking it unread in a uniform pocket.

The next time Schaffner passed, Cooper gestured for her to lean close. He said, “You’d better read that. I have a bomb.” He nodded toward the briefcase in his lap. Schaffner went to the galley, read the note, then shared it with fellow attendant Tina Mucklow. They hurried to the cockpit, where Capt. Scott had a look. The pilot immediately radioed Sea-Tac air traffic control, who alerted Seattle police, who in turn alerted the FBI. The feds placed an urgent call to Northwest Orient’s president, Donald Nyrop, who ordered full compliance with Cooper’s demands. Nyrop no doubt hoped to avoid the negative publicity that a disaster aboard a Northwest flight would bring. By comparison, $200,000 was a pittance.

Sluggo’s Northwest 305 Hijacking Research Site

When the flight landed in Seattle, the hijacker exchanged the flight’s 36 passengers for the money and parachutes. Cooper kept several crewmembers, and the plane took off again, ordered to set a course for Mexico City.

Somewhere between Seattle and Reno, sometime around 8:13 p.m., the hijacker did the incredible: he jumped out of the back of the plane with a parachute and the ransom money. The pilots landed safely, but Cooper had disappeared into the night and his ultimate fate remains a mystery to this day.

D. B. Cooper – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Despite aerial and ground searches of the projected 28-square-mile (73 km2) landing zone in late 1971 and spring 1972, no trace of Cooper or his parachute was found. An exact landing point was difficult to determine, as the plane’s 300 feet (91 m)-per-second speed in winds varying by location and altitude would make even small differences in timing move the projected landing point considerably. This led the FBI to determine that Cooper could not have known exactly where he would land, and therefore must not have had an accomplice waiting to assist him upon landing.

FBI Files

The FBI have released a set of 7 PDF files with the full details of the initial case:

Federal Bureau of Investigation – Freedom of Information Privacy Act

On November 24, 1971, an unknown subject, also known as Dan Cooper, purchased a one-way ticket on Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305. The flight was carrying 36 passengers and crew. The flight originated in Portland, Oregon with the final destination of Seattle, Washington. The plane was hijacked just prior to its arrival in Seattle. In Seattle, the hijacker allowed the passengers and two stewardesses to depart the plane. Northwest Orient Airlines paid the hijacker $200,000. The plane departed Seattle for Reno, Nevada. It is believed the hijacker parachuted from the plane during this flight. Authorities and personnel from Fort Lewis, Washington searched for Mr. Cooper but he was never found. In 1980, an 8-year-old boy found $5,800 on the bank of the Columbia River. This is the only money ever recovered from the ransom.

Popular Literature

There have been a number of books written about the man – from both FBI agents and amateur sleuths:

Could D.B. Cooper still be identified?

D.B. Cooper, where are you?

Forman said a friend of his — who was a loner, like the FBI described — confessed to Forman and his wife. The friend, who looked similar to the FBI sketch, was a proficient skydiver, an expert with dynamite and mysteriously disappeared in the days around the hijacking.

The kicker: Forman’s friend was a woman named Barbara Dayton; family and friends say she is believed to be the first person in Washington to have a sex-change operation.

Check Your $20 bills

D B Cooper’s Loot Serial Number Searcher

All of the ten-thousand $20 bills were photographed with a high-speed Recordak machine to create a microfilm later to be used to prepare a list of serial numbers.

Our engine will take the information you supply, and comb our database of the nearly 10,000 serial number of the hijacker’s ill-gotten gains. If you got a bill with one of the serial numbers, the program will tell you.

FOXNews.com – D.B. Cooper Skyjacking Cash Sold in Dallas Auction

Fifteen tattered $20 bills recovered from the 1971 D.B. Cooper skyjacking sold Friday for more than 120 times their face value at a Dallas auction.

Heritage Auction Galleries said the bills sold for a total of more than $37,000 — two to three times higher than expected.

Winning bidders paid about $6,500 each for two of the $20 bills. The money has the handwritten initials of investigators who examined the bills, which were found buried in sand in 1980.

Recent Copy Cat?

Pilot Jumps From Malibu, Flees Authorities

Authorities in Alabama are looking for the pilot of a Piper Malibu that crashed in Florida after the pilot apparently made a fake distress call, put the aircraft on autopilot and parachuted out late Sunday. The plane went on to crash near East Milton on the Florida panhandle while the pilot, identified as Marcus Schrenker, 38, an investment broker from Indianapolis, was being taken to a hotel in Harpersville, Ala., by a local police officer. According to the Childersburg Police Department, Schrenker told an officer he’d been in a canoeing accident and he was escorted to the hotel. Some time later, when police there heard about the crash and recognized Schrenker’s name, they went back to the hotel but Schrenker was gone. A hotel employee told them he put on a black cap and disappeared into the woods. The unusual string of events began with Schrenker taking off from Anderson Municipal Airport in Indiana Sunday evening.

The plane crashed at about 9:15 p.m. Sometime earlier, about 220 miles to the north near Birmingham, Ala., Schrenker made a distress call, saying the windshield on the aircraft had imploded and he was severely cut. At some point after that he “appears to have intentionally abandoned the plane after putting it on autopilot over the Birmingham, Alabama, area and parachuting to the ground,” according to a news release from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office in Milton, Fla. The cop who took Schrenker to the hotel in Harpersville said the pilot was wet from the knees down but didn’t appear hurt.

The Search Continues

FBI — D.B. Cooper – Press Room – New Developments in the Unsolved Case 03-17-09

Larry Carr thinks it’s highly unlikely that Cooper survived the jump. “But he came from somewhere and from someone. And that is what we want to know.” Based on what he has learned so far, here is Carr’s profile of Cooper:

  • He served in the Air Force and at some point was stationed in Europe, where he may have become interested in the Dan Cooper comic books.
  • He worked as a cargo loader on planes, giving him knowledge and experience in the aviation industry, which was in its infancy in 1971.
  • Because his job required him to throw cargo out of planes, Cooper would have worn an emergency parachute in case he fell out. This would have provided him with working knowledge of parachutes but not necessarily the functional knowledge to survive the jump he made.
  • He may have come from the East Coast, but taken an aviation job in Seattle when he got out of the military. It’s possible he lost his job during an economic downturn in the aviation industry in 1970-71. If he was a loner with little or no family, “nobody would have missed him” after he was gone.

Can You Help?

FBI — D.B. Cooper Redux – Help Us Solve the Enduring Mystery

Who was Cooper? Did he survive the jump? And what happened to the loot, only a small part of which has ever surfaced?

It’s a mystery, frankly. We’ve run down thousands of leads and considered all sorts of scenarios. And amateur sleuths have put forward plenty of their own theories. Yet the case remains unsolved.

Would we still like to get our man? Absolutely. And we have reignited the case—thanks to a Seattle case agent named Larry Carr and new technologies like DNA testing.

Category: History,


  • The Composite you are using is NOT an FBI composite, but a modified composite being used as a ruse…to indicate another subject was Cooper. If you provide me with an address to send the ACTUAL un-altered OFFICIAL FBI composites I will be glad to do so. I can also provide you with other composites done for the FBI which they never released to the public because the witnesses could not agree.

    One reporter sent a couple of hours with the Composite artist in 2000 and this artist – said there was something he tried to depict but was not sucessful in doing. In an old archived composite – he did show this detail – but the rest of the composite the witnesses Could Not agree on so they used a relative generic composite.

    I have seen other written information indicating Duane Weber was ruled out by DNA in 2001 – but the FBI DID NOT COLLECT the DNA until 2003 on March 27 (I have the receipts).
    They did NOT TEST the DNA until Nov 2006 and Jan 2007. I have the detailed report the FBI ACCIDENTALLY LEFT IN THE BOX when the DNA returned to me in 2008. Note: that since Weber’s death in 1995 and after 8 yrs the items had been cleaned and handle by many people at garage sales and others (I explained this to the FBI). Then when the FBI collects this DNA in 2003 – but the first test was not done until Nov. 27 2006. The items had been stored in a humid hot place (a Florida attic). Almost 12 yrs had gone by before the DNA was tested – it been cleaned and handled by multiple individual. NOTE this fact – the FBI compared this DNA to DNA from a tie found on the plane which no one saw Cooper remove. This tie was found neatly folded over between the seats where Cooper had sat…this was the last leg of a multi-stop flight.

    As of recent a pilot who flew the SLC/Alaska route has come forward with MORE information.
    In 1996 – I told the FBI that Duane told me about this pilot, but I could never find him because I didn’t have a name. I also had a photo of man I took in Salt Lake City – Duane did not want this man to see him. The FBI never investigated who or what this man was and why he was so important to Weber (this was in 1979)the yr we went to WA on business and when he made multiple stops at places – I was told did not exist, but when I went to WA in 2001 – I found these sites did exist…only with the help of concerned locals and not the authorities.

  • netflix just published a 3-hour docuseries called “D. B. Cooper”. I don’t know if it’s worth the time, has anyone watched it?

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