Dan Cooper’s Thanksgiving flight of fancy

On November 24, 1971, Dan Cooper a.k.a. D. B. Cooper purchased a one way ticket from Portland, Oregon to Seattle. This name was actually just a cover as part of this enterprising gentleman’s plan for an unusually memorable Thanksgiving for himself.

1972 F.B.I. composite drawing of D. B. Cooper

1972 F.B.I. composite drawing of D. B. Cooper

No strict security screenings existed at the airports 41 years ago. Passengers and their carry-on baggage screening only began in 1973. Thus, Cooper had no difficulty in bringing on board a bag containing a contraption with wires and cylinders that looked like or could have been an explosive device.

Smoking was also still permitted on aircraft. So, our villain calmly lit a cigarette, ordered a bourbon, then discretely made known his demands to the crew: $200,000, four parachutes and (we assume) another drink.

The plane landed in Seattle.

The polite hijacker allowed the passenger and part of the crew to disembark, took the money the FBI supplied to him, and ordered that the plane be flown to Mexico.

In the style of James Bond, Cooper jumped in a storm and in below zero temperature wearing only a business suit. At least he took off his tie before he launched himself into the dark from the tail of the Boeing 727.

Now comes the fun part.

He was never found.

The only traces left of him were the tie, some debris from the aircraft stair and of the 10,000 $20 bills; only 290 were recovered, in 1980, in Columbia River.

More than four decades later, Cooper’s whereabouts remain a mystery. And 97 billfolds made up of 100 20s each are still unaccounted for.

Cooper could not have spent the money without triggering all sorts of alarm bells (FBI still has all the serial numbers).

Conspiracy theories have sprung up like mushrooms around this story even if chances are slim that Cooper is still alive.

I have one too. He was either eaten by a cougar or a ‘cougar’ got his money and he hid in shame.

Himmelsbach, Ralph P.; Worcester, Thomas K. (1986). Norjak: The Investigation of D. B. Cooper. West Linn, Oregon: Norjak Project


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