On Thanksgiving Eve, 1971, a nondescript gentleman in his 40’s, wearing suit and overcoat, boarded flight 305 out of Portland, Oregon, ordered a bourbon and soda, and quietly smoked cigarettes. Flight attendants busied themselves with the normal duties of the short flight from Portland to Seattle. Passengers settled in for the quick flight.
Not until the moment the passenger recorded as Dan Copper handed a handwritten note to flight attendant Florence Shaffner did the flight steer from normal. The note, at first set aside by Shaffner, stated that Cooper held a bomb in his attache case, and demanded $200,000.
Tina Mucklow, another flight attendant on the flight this night, stated that Cooper remained polite and calm and seemed to be familiar with both the local terrain and flight operations. At one point, Cooper purchased a second bourbon and coke and attempted to tip Mucklow. He even went so far as to offer to request food for the crew once the plane was emptied in Seattle.
Events on the night of November 24, 1971 now are locked into history. Dan Cooper ordered 4 parachutes, of the civilian type. Once the money and parachutes delivered, the plane took off into the night. The crew, now out-of-sight, and Cooper alone with his machinations, the mystery begins.
Pilot William A. Scott noted at 8:13 pm the plane jolted upward. At 10:15 PM, Scott, and copilot Copilot William J. Rataczak, landed the plane at Reno Airport. Cooper was gone. In his place, the mystery of D. B. Cooper.
D. B. Cooper
The passenger who boarded Flight 305 out of Portland, Oregon purchased a ticket with cash giving the name Dan Cooper. News agencies, whether through miscommunication or marketing means, changed the name to D. B. Cooper. In some ways, this begins the mystery. Cooper was described as a thin man in his 40’s, wearing a black suit with tie and clip, quiet, calm, and professional – even while demanding money on the condition of explosion. A composite sketch of cooper shows a well dressed executive type gentleman of the era, with close cropped hair, and shape features. Cooper looked like every businessman in the U.S. at the time and probably did not stand out to witnesses.
Thousands of man hours revealed nothing. The FBI officially suspended active investigation of the case in July 2016, but the agency continues to request that any physical evidence that might emerge related to the parachutes or the ransom money be submitted for analysis. In 1980 this happened. A young boy, Brian Ingram found $5800 along the Columbia river in an area known as Tena bar. Analysis of the find remains subject of much debate and revealed little more than additional mystery. The money is attributed to the hijacking through serial numbers recorded by FBI agents.
Why is this a Mystery
D.B. Cooper jumped out of an airplane at 10,000 feet over one of the most rugged areas, into a night sky coupled with rain and high winds. Neither the bulk of the cash or his remains, including parachute or backpack, has been seen since. Occam’s Razor would suggest his heist ended with the landing of his body among the trees, and ultimately, the ground. The bounty he so stylishly acquired surely suffered a similar fate and ended scattered among the Washington rain forest floor south of Mount Saint Helen. But, mystery is much more interesting than simple logic so we have spent 48 years trying to uncover the identity of D.B Cooper based solely on a composite sketch, some basic knowledge of flight operations, and the terrain around Seattle.
- Who was Dan Cooper?
- Where did he land after jumping from Flight 305?
- Did he survive a jump in those conditions wearing a suit and loafers?
- What happened to the money?