D.B. Cooper: Jumping out of the plane and into infamy

FBI composite sketch circa 1971

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation

FBI composite sketch circa 1971

Storm Aiken, Designer

It was a gloomy Wednesday when one of America’s greatest unsolved aviation crimes took place. On November 24, 1971, around 3:00 p.m., a mysterious man who went by the name Dan Cooper hijacked a Boeing 727 in the northwest United States. He appeared to be a regular passenger at first, wearing a business-style suit; but things took a dark turn when he handed the flight attendant a note that said he had a bomb in his briefcase. He discreetly demanded $200,000 in cash by 5 p.m. He also said that he wanted 4 parachutes, two back, and two front, as well as all of the money to be in $20 bills. When the plane landed, he exchanged the passengers for what he had asked for but kept some staff. He then had them take off toward Mexico City, and made the plane stay below 10,000 feet. A few hours later, Cooper took the money and parachutes and jumped out of the rear doors of the plane into the night. He was never seen again.

There’s been a lot of speculation surrounding Cooper and his crime; one of the biggest questions being “Did he survive the fall?” The FBI believes that he died after he jumped. The weather conditions that night were awful, with heavy rain and pretty much no visibility whatsoever. No experienced jumper would even think about doing it in conditions like that, especially in a wooded area. Another common theory is that Cooper was ex-military, and had the training to jump in such difficult conditions, leading to him surviving the fall and walking away with only some cuts and scrapes. The government released the serial numbers of the money that Cooper took, and a couple of years later in 1980, a young boy found a rotting bag with money in it. The serial numbers on the found money matched those from the Cooper case.

There were over 200 suspects throughout the years, but the pool has been narrowed down to only a handful of people. Many people have come forward and said that they know who Cooper was, and that they were either related or that they were the man himself. DNA testing was shaky back then, and there simply wasn’t enough evidence to pinpoint the exact identity of Cooper. That leaves us with a cliffhanger and a few heavy questions. Who was D.B. Copper, and did he survive the fall? What happened to the money? Will he ever be caught? Whatever you choose to believe, the fact of the matter is that we have no answers to any of these questions, and the case of the D.B. Cooper skyjacking will remain a mystery.

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