We’re nearing the 45th anniversary of this mysterious event, which took place November 24, 1972, the day before Thanksgiving. On a Northwest Orient Airline flight from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, a well-dressed middle-aged man handed a note to one of the flight attendants. She figured he was yet another man hitting on her, and so she put the note unread into her purse.
Thus rebuffed, the man–dark-haired, clean-shaven, wearing a dark suit, white dress shirt and clip-on black tie–called her again and said she should read the note, because he had a bomb. The note, which the man later reclaimed, instructed her to sit next to him. When she did, he opened a briefcase, revealing eight red cylinders, wiring, and a large battery.
He demanded $200,000 in twenty-dollar bills and a parachute. This differed from the demands of a rash of hijackers that plagued the airlines in those days. A great deal of them ordered that the pilot fly the jet to other nations, often Cuba. They didn’t jump from the plane.
But that’s what DB Cooper did. He turned down military parachutes offered by nearby McChord Air Force Base and instead selected civilian parachutes. Once the money was delivered, he released all the passengers and two members of the crew. He gave specific orders on the degree of angle for the wing flaps, the speed, and the elevation the jet was to maintain after takeoff, and at 8:13 p.m. they departed from Seattle toward Reno, Nevada.
When the jet landed, DB Cooper, the money, and two of the parachutes were gone. While the plane was in flight amid a heavy rainstorm, Cooper had opened an aft staircase and jumped. Evidence indicated he had parachuted out over the Cascade Mountains east of Woodland, Washington, and south of Mt. St. Helens.
Nobody ever found this man, whose name nobody actually knows. He used the name “Dan Cooper” when he bought the flight ticket. Subsequently, a newspaper reporter mistakenly referred to him as DB Cooper, and the name stuck.
In the spring of 1972 hundreds of army soldiers, law enforcement personnel, and volunteers combed the mountainous region where it was believed he had to have landed. They found no trace of him or of the money.
At approximately the one-year anniversary in November 1972, an odd collection of individuals happened to meet in a bar in Kelso, Washington, before setting out to search for the missing loot–well, let’s just say something like that might have happened. That’s the subject of my current novel-in-progress, which I’ve entitled Cooper’s Loot.
In future weeks, I will share more about what is known about the DB Cooper hijacking, as well as offer some sneak previews of my book, which is now at the revision stage.