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One night in 1971 D B Cooper vanished near Aerial, Washington with $200,000 (£110,000) in ransom money after hijacking a jet. Since 1974 the town has held an annual D B Cooper party, to celebrate his claim to fame. As many as 500 fans gather to remember someone they never knew. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! 2006
Thanksgiving Eve 1971: a man who identified himself as D B Cooper walks into the airport at Portland, Oregon. D B Cooper buys a one-way ticket to Seattle. His only luggage a briefcase. He’s the last person to board the plane. Unsolved Mysteries, NBC 1988
And so begins one of the most infamous crimes in US history. To this day no-one knows the true identity of the man who called himself D B Cooper or if he survived his daring parachute leap from 10,000 feet. This case remains the only unsolved skyjacking in the world. ibid.
Four parachutes were delivered. Both the flight crew and the FBI were worried that Cooper would use the extra chutes to take hostages with him. ibid.
Cooper ordered the pilot to fly from Seattle all the way to Mexico City, at a height of only 10,000 feet, and a speed of only two hundred miles per hour ... Somewhere over the forests of Washington State Cooper jumped. He hasn’t been seen since. ibid.
Seven years later a hunter deep in the Washington forest discovered a plastic sign from a 727. It had been ripped form the lower stairwell of Flight 305. ibid.
February 10th 1980: a family was preparing a barbecue on the shore of the Columbia River. It was twenty miles south-west of Cooper’s supposed jump point. They planned on digging a fire pit, but dug up something else. The bills totalling $5,880 were waterlogged and deteriorated. Many believe that D B Cooper survived and some think he may have struck again. Only five months after Cooper’s flight, a half a million dollars was extorted in another hijacker: he was a former green beret and his name was Richard McCoy. He was sentenced to forty-five years for air-piracy but he escaped, and he was killed in a gun battle with the FBI. ibid.
Who was D B Cooper? ibid.
On the evening of the 24th November 1971 a Northwest Airlines Boeing 727 took off from Seattle on route for Reno, Nevada. It had been hijacked by a man claiming to have a bomb on board. About twenty minutes into the flight while flying over the Cascade Mountains the pilot saw a light indicating that the rear door was open. Moments later with the plane at an altitude of 10,000 feet the crew realised that the hijacker had parachuted out into the chilly night. Tied securely around his waist was a rucksack containing the money he demanded in return for not blowing up the plane. With $200,000 in $20 bills he vanished without a trace. Vanishings: The Only Successful Hijacking?
Cooper received wide news coverage. He was the only person in the States to have hijacked a plane and got clean away with the ransom money. Some saw him as a kind of folk hero. ibid.
Eight-year-old Brian Ingram came across three packets of waterlogged $20 bills on the banks of the Columbia River near Vancouver Washington. ibid.
He handed me a note and he kept looking at me and I just ignored him at first. He looked at me and said, I want you to read the note. It was printed: Miss, I have a bomb in my briefcase. I want you to sit beside me. Florence Schaffner, flight attendant
April 7th 1972 United Airlines Flight 855 en route from Newark to Los Angeles ... The note revealed a terrifying threat to all on board ... While FBI agents in San Francisco focused their attention on the plane, their colleagues in Colorado tried to learn everything they could about Mr Johnson in seat 20D ... Neither Federal agents nor the United Airlines crew knew enough to determine whether this was indeed the famed D B Cooper at work or a masterful copy-cat. FBI Files: Flight From Justice, Discovery 2004
8He had jumped somewhere between Provo and a small town called Springville, Utah. The FBI agents in Salt Lake City were on alert: when they got word the hijacker jumped, the men took off in pursuit. If this hijacker was in fact the infamous D B Cooper, the FBI knew they had to move fast to ensure he didn’t get away the second time. ibid.
This hijacking was remarkably similar to an event that occurred four months earlier when a man named D B Cooper jumped from a jetliner with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and vanished. The FBI wanted to ensure this hijacker didn’t get away. ibid.
McCoy was free to go. He didn’t seem to be the kind of criminal they were looking for. He was a Mormon, a father of two, studying law enforcement at Brigham Young University. Agents learned McCoy practised jumping with a local sky-diving school. ibid.
Both Cooper and McCoy used false names and disguises. They both gave instructions to the pilot on FAA forms. The way the passengers were moved to the front of the plane and finally released was identical in both cases. As was of course their unusual means of escape. ibid.
But the most intriguing evidence linking McCoy with Cooper was something Cooper left on the plane. A clip-on tie and tie-clasp, both of which were identified by relatives as belonging to Richard McCoy. ibid.
For McCoy the ninetieth day of freedom was his last. The FBI caught their man, but with McCoy dead perhaps the greatest chance of learning the truth about the infamous D B Cooper ... ibid.
It was one of the most daring heists ever attempted: one man, two hundred thousand dollars and a parachute. Did D B Cooper survive his daring leap from a 727? Or did he perish in the rugged mountains of the American north-west? Unsolved History: The Great Plane Robbery
Why is his crime the only unsolved skyjacking in history? ibid.
On a cold and windy November afternoon in 1971 a nondescript middle-aged man boarded North-West Orient 305. ibid.
The parachutes and ransom were brought on board. ibid.
Did D B Cooper survive his leap into the stormy void? If so, where did he go? Whose identity did he assume or re-assume? And what about the money? The serial numbers of each of the ten thousand $20 notes were recorded by the FBI before the ransom was paid. But not a single one has ever been found in circulation. Nor did any other evidence turn up ... So what became of D B Cooper? ibid.
Since 1971 hundreds of people have made jumps from a 727, but with much more modern sky-diving gear. Cooper demanded a military parachute. Similar to those used by paratroopers in the Second World War. But he was dressed in a business suit. And wore street shoes. ibid.
Darkness was the least of Cooper’s worries. The leap from the speeding jet would have been extremely dangerous. ibid.
Air and ground searches continued for eighteen days. They turned up nothing. Tips poured in from all over the country. They led nowhere. The cost of the manhunt mounted, becoming one of the most expensive to date in US history. But D B Cooper had vanished into thin air. ibid.
Nine years after D B Cooper jumped into the void, an eight-year-old boy was gathering wood for a campfire along the banks of the Columbia river. What he found would set off a new media frenzy and send a new generation of treasure hunters out into the wilderness of Washington state. ibid.
We do know that the banknotes weighed nine and a half kilos; what we don’t know is how Cooper secured the money to his person. ibid.
In addition to the main parachute Cooper donned a chest-mounded reserve chute. ibid.
The coincidences between the life of Duane Weber and what we know of D B Cooper are striking. The men’s physical descriptions are virtually identical. Both were chain-smokers. Both drank Bourbon. Both apparently had some military experience ... Both exhibited a detailed knowledge of aviation and the geography of the upper north-west. ibid.
Out of the top ten people that have come back out of these thousands of pictures Duane Weber is match number one. ibid.
Of all of America’s skyjackings only one remains unsolved. On November 24th 1971 a passenger using the name Dan Cooper hijacked North West Orient Airlines Flight 305 headed from Portland to Seattle. Brad Meltzer’s Decoded s1e6: D B Cooper, History 2011
At 10,000 feet Cooper jumped from the backstairs of the Boeing 747. ibid.
New evidence that points to Christiansen. ibid.
Kenny Christiansen had the access and the motive and that shortly after the skyjacking came into a pile of money. ibid.
The hijacker left behind his tie and tie tag. He either threw out or took along his attaché case. He did leave behind two of the four parachutes. One of which he had opened on the cabin floor, and cut two of the shroud lines off with a sharp instrument probably to use to tie the money to his waist. Ralph Himmelsbach, former FBI agent
Why do you think D B Cooper has become such a folk hero? The Pursuit of D B Cooper 1981 starring Robert Duvall & Treat Williams, television interview & Kathryn Harrold & Paul Gleason & R G Armstrong et al, director Roger Spottiswoode
On 24th November 1971 a male dressed in a suit and tie hijacked a commercial plane, he then parachuted into the night with $200,000, the equivalent of $1.2 million today. Never to be seen again. He’s a folk hero to some, an outlaw to others. And a mystery to all. D B Cooper: Case Closed? I History 2016
‘He seems to know a little about an aeroplane.’ ibid. pilot reporting hijack
‘He knew more about the 727 than the pilots.’ ibid. expert