D.B. Cooper, a 727, And $200,000: The Greatest Unsolved Mystery Of The '70s

By | November 23, 2020

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source: FBI.gov

D.B. Cooper was a thief and a hijacker who escaped capture by jumping out of a Boeing 727 -- and left us with one of the biggest unsolved crimes of the '70s. The brazenness of Cooper's plan, the fact that he seemed to have executed it perfectly, and perhaps most of all his complete disappearance, has made him a folk hero in spite of our own law-abiding instincts.

Because, of course, you wouldn't steal $200,000, you wouldn't threaten a flight attendant with a supposed bomb, you wouldn't parachute out of that plane -- but man, wouldn't that be the way to go? You'd be halfway to anywhere, starting a new life with your suitcase full of cash, while the clueless FBI was still combing the woods near Mt. St. Helens.

Cooper, who actually did steal $200,000 on November 24, 1971, has never been found and he's never been identified, making this crime the only unsolved case of air piracy in the history of aviation. Long thought to be dead, Cooper remains a mystery with some FBI agents believing him to be dead in spite of the lack of a body, and others thinking that he's a member of their ranks.

The case was suspended in 2016, so we may never really know what actually happened with Cooper. His jump changed him from some guy in a suit with a job to a piece of real deal American mythology. We love the story of D.B. Cooper because it tells that we too can enter the annals of history with little more than a plan and the courage to jump.

Day one of a long weekend

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

On the afternoon of November 24, 1971, a normal looking middle-aged man carrying a briefcase boarded Flight 305 out of Portland. He was taking a Boeing 727 bound for Seattle, it's a 30 minute flight but long enough to pull off some serious crime. Cooper wore a business suit with a white shirt and black tie. He ordered bourbon and soda while he waited for the plane to take off.

Once the plane departed at 2:50 PM he passed a note to Florence Schaffner, a flight attendant who thought this solo passenger was hitting on her. She didn't even read the note, but when Cooper said, "Miss, you'd better look at that note. I have a bomb," everything changed.

Cooper opened his briefcase and showed Schaffner eight red cylinders and a large battery. Once he was sure his message was understood Cooper said that he wanted $200,000, four parachutes (two to use in his escape and two for backup), and a fuel truck ready to fill the plane when it arrived in Seattle.