The Unexplained Disappearance of D.B. Cooper is one of the most intriguing mysteries in American history. On November 24, 1971, a man who identified himself as “Dan Cooper” hijacked a Northwest Orient Airlines flight 305 and extorted $200,000 in ransom money before parachuting from the plane, never to be seen again. Despite an extensive manhunt and investigation by law enforcement agencies, D.B. Cooper’s true identity and whereabouts remain a fascinating mystery to this day.
The daring heist and Cooper’s enigmatic persona have captivated the public’s imagination for decades, leading to numerous theories and speculations about what truly happened on that fateful day. In this article, we will delve into the details of the D.B. Cooper case and explore the different theories surrounding this legendary tale.
1. The Heist that Led to The Unexplained Disappearance of D.B. Cooper
On the evening of November 24, 1971, a man using the name Dan Cooper approached the counter of North Orient Airlines in Portland, Oregon. Dan Cooper boarded a flight from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington. Dan Cooper was a quiet man who seems to be in his middle 40s wearing a business suit with a black tie and black clip-on tie, a white shirt with brown shoes and carrying a cheap attaché case.
Dan Cooper bought a one-way ticket under this name, which would later be misreported as D.B. Cooper in the media. Dan Cooper took a seat in the rear of the cabin and ordered a bourbon and soda before handing a note to the nearest flight attendant, Florence Schaffner and another flight attendant, Tina Mucklow, behind him as a liaison between Schaffner and Cooper.
Dan Cooper opened his cheap attaché case, and Cooper handed the note that reads, “Miss, I have a bomb here, and I would like you to sit by me.” Flight attendant Schaffner sat down next to Cooper, and he opened his cheap attaché case to reveal a mass of wires, red sticks, and a battery. Cooper then informed flight attendant Schaffner that he had a bomb and demanded that she read the note he had given her. Dan Cooper demanded four parachutes and 200,000 dollars in twenty dollar bills in negotiable American currency and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the plane upon arrival.
An area stunt pilot provided the Seattle police with two front (reserve) parachutes and two back (main) parachutes.
After the captain was informed of the situation, he alerted the authorities, and upon arrival in Seattle, Cooper’s demands were met. The ransom money was gathered from various banks and placed in a knapsack, along with the four parachutes. Dan Cooper allowed all the passengers and two of the flight attendants to leave the plane, keeping the crew members and the remaining flight attendant, Tina Mucklow, on board.
Dan Cooper instructed the captain to fly to Mexico City at a low altitude with the landing gear down. As part of his request, he asked for the rear door to remain unlocked, and the plane to be flown low and steadily. indicating to the FBI that Cooper was likely an experienced skydiver. Shortly after takeoff, Cooper lowered the rear stairs of the plane, and Cooper jumped out with the cash and parachutes, never to be seen again. The plane landed safely in Seattle. Cooper’s escape seems like a no man’s job. We can’t predict where Dan Cooper landed and where he disappeared and left cooper’s mystery unsolved.
2. The Investigation
The FBI sketch of a hijacking suspect known as “D.B. Cooper” circulated by media like Fox Weather and reported that “Cooper exchanged the flight’s 36 passengers for cash and parachutes when the flight landed in Seattle”.
In addition to the 66 undercover fingerprints on the airliner, FBI agents found that Cooper was wearing a black tie with clasps, a tie clip, and two out of four parachutes. The body strap is cut off. Canopy. A series of composite sketches were developed by FBI agents after interviewing eyewitnesses in Portland, Seattle, and Reno.
As soon as possible suspects were identified, and local police and FBI agents began questioning them. According to Portland police, the hijacker may have used his real name (or the same alias from a previous crime) when he hijacked an aeroplane. They found and interviewed a Portland citizen named D.B. Cooper because of the suspect’s previous minor criminal record. He was soon ruled out as a suspect.
A local reporter named James Long who had a deadline to take care of, confused Portland Police with a pseudo-name used by the hijacker.
Bill Mitchell, a student at the University of Oregon, sat across Cooper for three hours. Mitchell described Cooper nearly identically to the other two flight attendants, except Cooper was slightly shorter than 5 feet 10 inches. The complexion of Cooper led Robert Gregory and made him believe Cooper to be a Mexican-American or Native American.
The FBI obtained a DNA sample from Cooper’s left black clip-on tie after he left it on the plane, and subsequently launched the case known as NORJAK (Northwest Hijacking).
One popular theory about NORJAK regarding the DB Cooper case is that it was an inside job. This belief is shared by various individuals and groups, including CitizenSleuths, an online organization. Using an electron microscope, CitizenSleuths identified several rare particles, including cerium, strontium sulfide, and pure titanium, on Cooper’s tie.
Tom Kaye, who leads CitizenSleuths, noted that these particles were not commonly used at the time but were being utilized in a specific field, which was the development of an advanced supersonic transport plane at Boeing. This finding has led some to speculate that Cooper may have had inside knowledge of Boeing and its operations, suggesting that the hijacking was an inside job.
Local police and FBI agents immediately began questioning the suspect. Portland police, considering the possibility that the kidnapper may have used his real name (or an alias identical to that of his previous offence), identified Portland citizen D. Cooper. Portland Cooper had a minor file with the police but was quickly cleared as a suspect.
One of the people from the suspect’s list named as Richard Floyd McCoy was arrested on suspicion of a similar aeroplane hijacking and escape similarly, like Dan Cooper about five months ago, but later Richard Floyd McCoy got ruled out from the list on the grounds of not matching the identical physical description of Cooper given by eyewitnesses.
The precise definition of the search area was difficult. The aircraft’s expected airspeed varied, and environmental conditions along the flight path varied with the aircraft’s position and altitude, with only Cooper being able to pull the aircraft before pulling it. They knew how long they were in free fall…
Air Force F-106 pilots did not see anyone jump out of the plane, and their radar did not detect an open parachute.
Also, a man in a black dark suit with 200-mile-per-hour wind and rain outside wearing loafers and a trench coat jumping on a moonless night will be difficult to see due to limited visibility, blur, and lack of ground lighting. The T-33 pilot had no visual contact with the 727.
It was December 6, 1971, when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover authorized the use of an Air Force SR-71 Blackbird to reroute Flight 305, and photograph and locate items carried by Cooper. jump. The SR-71 flew five times along the route of flight 305, but “the visibility was poor, and I could not take pictures”, he said.
In an experimental emulation game flying the same aircraft used in the hijacking in the same flight configuration, FBI agents successfully manoeuvred a 200-pound (91 kg) sledge down a ramp upwards.
As early extrapolation suggested, Cooper’s landing site was on the southernmost ledge of Mount St. Louis. Transient changes in tail and cabin pressure were described by the crew at 20:13.
St. Helens, near Mervin Lake, an artificial lake dammed on the Lewis River a few miles southeast of Ariel, Washington. The search effort focused on Clark and Cowlitz counties, which covered areas just south and north of the Lewis River in southwest Washington.
The overgrown area was searched on foot and by helicopter by FBI agents and sheriff’s deputies. Household searches were also conducted on local farms. Other search parties were sent out for patrol boats along Lake Mervin and Yale. The reservoir is slight to the east. Neither Cooper nor the equipment he believed he wore was ever found.
3. The Unsolved Theories
The mystery of D.B. Cooper’s true identity and whereabouts have sparked numerous theories and speculations over the years. Some of the popular theories are:
- FBI special agent Larry Carr wrote in a subtle but still not solved 2007 case update. He reported about cooper that “He also overlooked the fact that his reserve chute was only for training and was sewn shut-something a skilled skydiver would have checked.” He further added, “We originally thought Cooper was an experienced jumper, perhaps even a paratrooper… Several years later, we realized this wasn’t the case.”
- Larry Carr’s fact claim was vehemently backed up by the finding that only one of Cooper’s parachutes was a functioning parachute. The other one was a training parachute that wasn’t functional but the other one did work.
- Cooper was a skilled skydiver: Many people believe that Cooper was a skilled skydiver who had planned the heist for months or even years. Cooper’s demand for four parachutes suggested that he was well-versed in skydiving techniques and had a backup plan in case one of the parachutes malfunctioned. Supporters of this theory argue that Cooper was able to land safely and escape undetected.
- Cooper died during the jump: Some people speculate that Cooper may have died during the jump due to extreme conditions or a miscalculation on his part. Some have even suggested that his body may still be lying undiscovered in the wilderness.
- Cooper was an experienced military or intelligence operative: Another theory suggests that Cooper was a trained military or intelligence operative who used the heist as a cover for a secret mission. This theory points to the fact that Cooper was familiar with military equipment and procedures, as evidenced by his demand for specific types of parachutes.
- Cooper was a regular criminal: Some believe that Cooper was a common criminal who simply got lucky with his daring heist. Supporters of this theory argue that Cooper may have been able to blend back into society by changing his appearance and moving to a different location.
- Cooper was a group effort: Another theory suggests that Cooper may have had accomplices who helped him plan and execute the heist. Some have even suggested that the CIA or other government agencies may have been involved in the heist.
Despite numerous investigations, interviews, and leads over the years, none of these theories has been proven or disproved conclusively. The mystery of D.B. Cooper’s identity and fate remains one of the most compelling mysteries in American history.
4. Later Developments
In the years following the hijacking, several developments emerged that kept the story of D.B. Cooper in the public eye. Here are some notable developments that occurred:
- The discovery of Cooper’s tie: In 1978, a young boy discovered a rotting package containing a clip-on black tie that was similar to the one Cooper had been wearing during the hijacking. The discovery renewed interest in the case and led to an extensive search of the area where the tie had been found, but no further clues were discovered.
- The release of a composite sketch: In 1980, the FBI released a composite sketch of what D.B. Cooper may have looked like based on witness descriptions. The sketch was widely circulated in the media and generated a surge of tips and leads from the public.
- The uncovering of new evidence: In 2011, a woman named Marla Cooper came forward claiming that her uncle, Lynn Doyle Cooper, had confessed to her that he was D.B. Cooper before his death in 1999. Marla Cooper provided the FBI with a guitar strap that she claimed was owned by her uncle and may have been used as a rope during the hijacking. However, DNA tests conducted on the strap proved inconclusive, and the FBI closed the case once again.
- The discovery of more money: In 2017, a group of amateur sleuths uncovered a piece of foam from one of Cooper’s parachutes in a remote area of Washington state. The foam contained traces of rare earth elements that were also found on the ransom money, leading some to speculate that Cooper may have buried some of the money in the area. A few months later, a group of hunters discovered $5,800 of the ransom money near the same location, but it remains unclear whether the money was part of the original ransom.
Despite these developments, the mystery of D.B. Cooper’s true identity and whereabouts remains unsolved. In 2016, the FBI concluded and officially closed the case, stating that they had exhausted all leads and resources without being able to conclusively identify Cooper. However, the story of the daring hijacking and its enigmatic perpetrator continues to captivate the public imagination and inspire numerous books, movies, and documentaries.
5. Recent Developments
In recent years, there have been few significant developments in the D.B. Cooper case. However, here are a few updates that have occurred:
- New evidence discovered in 2020: In March 2020, a team of volunteer investigators claimed to have discovered new evidence related to the case. The evidence, which included possible human remains, was found in a remote area of Washington state where Cooper was believed to have landed after his jump. The remains were sent to a lab for DNA testing, but the results have not yet been released.
- The FBI releases new information: In July 2021, the FBI announced that they had released new information about the case to generate new leads. The information included previously undisclosed details about Cooper’s tie, his purchase of the airline ticket, and his demands during the hijacking. The FBI also released a new artist’s sketch of what Cooper may have looked like based on updated witness descriptions.
- The case is officially closed: In July 2021, the FBI announced that they were officially closing the case, citing a lack of new evidence or leads. However, they stated that they would continue to investigate any new leads that emerged in the future.
While the case remains officially unsolved, the release of new information and the ongoing efforts of amateur sleuths and investigators suggest that the mystery of D.B. Cooper will continue to fascinate and intrigue people for years to come.
The story of D.B. Cooper is one of the most intriguing and unforgettable mysteries in American history, and it continues to capture the imagination of people around the world. The hijacking of Flight 305 and the subsequent disappearance of the enigmatic Cooper have inspired countless books, movies, and documentaries, and the case has remained unsolved for nearly 50 years.
Despite numerous theories and investigations, the true identity of D.B. Cooper and his whereabouts remain a mystery. While the FBI officially closed the case in 2016, the release of new information in 2021 and ongoing efforts by amateur sleuths and investigators suggest that the case will continue as a topic of study and debate for many years to come.
Regardless of the ultimate resolution of the case, the story of D.B. Cooper has become a part of American folklore, representing a daring act of criminality that captured the public’s imagination and left a lasting impact on the country’s history. The legend of cooper mystery will continue to intrigue people of all ages and will likely remain a part of popular culture for generations to come.