50th Anniversary of D.B. Cooper’s Plane Hijacking

Seth Trischler 22

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found on FBI.gov

A sketch of what D.B. looked like from the description of the stewardess on the plane the day of the hijack. (via FBI)

This November 24th will mark the 50th Anniversary of the mysterious D.B. Cooper plane hijacking.

The case began after a man got on a Northwest Airline in Portland, Oregon on the date of November 24, 1971. The man used the name D.B. Cooper as he purchased a one-way plane ticket to Seattle, Washington. “The plane carried 36 passengers that day, not including: the pilot, Captain William Scott, the first officer Bob Rataczak, the flight engineer H.E. Anderson, and two flight attendants, Tina Mucklow and Florence Schaffner,” said crimemuseum.org. Cooper looked to be around forty years old and wore black sunglasses along with a slim black suit. A short time after 3:00 pm, when the plane took off, Cooper gave Schaffner a note saying he had a bomb. He then showed her a suitcase with red wires and sticks within it. He then had her sit with him and eventually go to the Captain’s cockpit requesting four parachutes and 200 thousand dollars in twenty dollar bills.

Every witness apart of the hijack except Florence Schaffner who has managed to stay out of the media. (via crimemag)

When the flight landed in Seattle, Cooper exchanged all thirty-six passengers for the money and parachutes. He then kept some crew members and the plane took off again for Mexico City. Everything was on course until 8:00pm when the plane was somewhere between Seattle and Reno. Cooper had taken all the ransom money and jumped out the plane with his parachute. The pilots landed safely but Cooper and the money were gone.

The F.B.I. looked for this so called D.B. Cooper but he was never found. They had a favored suspect by the name of Richard Floyd McCoy. He was a prime suspect because he was arrested for a similar hijacking less than half a year later. He was ruled out though because his facial features did not match the ones of the description made by the flight attendants.

The discovery of these bundles led to new searches around that area. However, an eruption of Mt. St. Helens on May 18, 1980, likely destroyed any remaining clues about the Cooper case.

— crimemusuem.org

Many speculate whether Cooper survived at all. The area where he potentially  landed was a woody area where he most likely would have hit a tree on his way down. This story was reinforced after a boy in 1980 found $5, 800 that was all in twenty dollar bills. The serial number did in fact match the ransom money.

Many people over the years have admitted to being D.B Cooper but none have yet to match the full description of the man that disappeared so many years ago.

Since then there have been many shows and movies that have featured the mysterious criminal in a way. These include the following: The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper(1981), Without a Paddle(2004), and Loki(2021). Cooper has also been mentioned in several big shows like Breaking Bad and Blacklist. There have also been several songs released about him too. These include Chuck Brodsky’s “The Ballad of D.B. Cooper” and Victim of Circumstance’s “The Final Flight of D. B. Cooper”. Recently, HBO released a documentary on Cooper called The Mystery of D.B Cooper that was released last year on HBO Max. While few born today know about Cooper’s hijack, I think its safe to say it had a lasting impact on anyone who was alive when it happened.

I personally believe Cooper survived because I do not feel someone hijacks a plane, asks for parachutes, and then jumps out of the plane if they do not have some experience or have not planned out what they are doing. I also hope we never find out the exact truth because I think the mystery of D.B. Cooper is what makes it intriguing in the first place.