D. B. Cooper
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
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.
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.
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.
The FBI have released a set of 7 PDF files with the full details of the initial case:
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.
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?
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
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.
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?
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
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?
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.