Unsolved Historical Mysteries: D. B. Cooper

Even if you don’t know who D. B. Cooper was, there is a chance that you probably heard this at one point. He was a man who hijacked a plane in 1971, took a ransom of $200,000 (equivalent to $1.5 million today), and then jumped out of a plane with a parachute, never to be seen again.

On November 24, 1971, a man bought a one-way ticket under the name Dan Cooper in Portland, Oregon, and boarded Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 to Seattle, Washington. While in mid-air, Cooper told the flight attendant that he had a bomb in his briefcase. He demanded $200,000 in ransom money and four parachutes when the plane arrived at its original destination.

Once the plane landed in Seattle, Cooper received his money and parachutes before releasing the passengers. He then ordered the flight crew to refuel the plane and begin a flight to Mexico City.

But instead of following through with the flight to Mexico City, Cooper opened the plane doors after 30 minutes and jumped out. Despite a decades-long investigation by the FBI, the true identity of D. B. Cooper, as well as his fate, remained a mystery. A small portion of the ransom money was discovered in 1980 but didn’t offer investigators plenty of new information.

While Copper’s body and the rest of the money were never found, the FBI believes that he didn’t survive the parachute jump. The conclusion was based on the fact that the weather was unfavorable, his lack of skydiving experience, and the rough terrain in which he presumably landed.

There is also a theory that he survived the jump and left the portion of the ransom money to throw off investigators. Four more hijackers later copied Cooper’s plan and successfully executed parachute jumps in similar conditions, but the only difference was that they were captured later.  

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