It was November 24, 1971, and a man dressed up in a suit went up to a Northwest Orient Airlines counter at the Portland International Airport and bought a one-way ticket to Seattle, Washington for $20. That man went by the name of D.B Cooper or Dan Cooper.
Just a Regular Flight
Like everyone else, he boarded his flight, a Boeing 727, sat down, and ordered a beverage from the in-flight staff. It was bourbon and soda. By all accounts, the gentleman was polite and well-spoken and even offered an impressive tip to the flight attendant for his drinks.
The Strange Request
Once the plane took off, Cooper motioned to the flight attendant to come over, her name was Florence Schaffner. He handed a note, saying that he had a bomb, and asked her to sit beside him as opened his case to reveal wires and red tubes. D.B Cooper quietly gave her a list of commands, instructing her to write them down. Cooper insisted that he would blow up the plane unless he was provided with four parachutes and US$200,000 in $20 bills. His demands were sent by her to the pilot, William Scott. The authorities were noted and immediately they implemented a plan of action to meet his demands, cash, parachutes, and all. The plane landed on the Seattle runway and the exchange took place. The man released his hostages and got what he wanted. Once the passengers were ordered to disembark, the hijacker demanded that the flight crew remain on board along with him.
A mystery destination
According to various sources on the plane, Cooper issued strict instructions. The plane would fly no higher than 3500 meters, with wing flaps at 15 degrees. His knowledge of the plane was impressive. At some point during the flight, Cooper strapped the bundles of cash to a parachute, made his way to the end of the plane, edged to the stairs where passengers are let off. They flew over a dense forest and the Columbia River, and at that point, Cooper jumped along with his money.
It was clear that Cooper knew what he was doing. The Boeing 727 he chose was perfect for this heist. The engines were located in a spot that would not incinerate him on the jump and the stairs could be deployed in flight. Scores of law enforcement agents scanned the area they believed Cooper landed in, but there was no luck. The man simply vanished.
In almost five decades since the mysterious hijacking, only two pieces of evidence have surfaced. In 1978, a placard printed with instructions for lowering the stairs of a Boeing 727 about 15 kilometers west of Mount St Helens, still within the potential drop zone was found. And along the Columbia River, three packets of US$20 notes, proven to be part of the ransom money was found. The rest of the money is nowhere to be found.
In July 2016, the FBI closed the book on the case making that a 60-volume case file compiled over the 45-years. It is now preserved for historical purposes. Since the mysterious Cooper heist, many films have been made, making it one of the most riveting escape stories in history.