Today marks the 50th anniversary of the only unsolved hijacking in US Airline history

Cooper descended the ramp wearing a chute and clutching the case with the money, and plummeted into the dark, cloudy rainy night!

WHO WAS DB COOPER AND WHAT DID HE DO?

On November 24th, 1971, the man pictured in our story, only identified as D.B. Cooper (from the airline manifest) got on board a Northwest Airlines Boeing 727 in Portland OR, and was headed to Seattle on Flight 305.  What happened next is folklore.

  DID HE REALLY HAVE A BOMB ON BOARD?

Described as a quiet, polite, slight, slender man, Cooper stunned the stewardesses when he opened his briefcase and showed them what appeared to be a bomb.  A mess of wires and colored sticks that appeared to be explosives. He was not violent at all.

According to the FBI and multiple sources, Cooper demanded four parachutes and $200K cash. Why he needed four has never been solved. He told the pilot to continue to Seattle.

When the plane landed at SeaTac (Seattle Tacoma International) Cooper traded the 36 passengers, said the FBI, for the cash and chutes.

He did keep the flight crew and several stewardesses on board. What happened next is what built his "legend."

 COOPER BAILED OUT OVER THE COLUMBIA RIVER NEAR VANCOUVER?

The plane was headed reportedly for Mexico City, then Cooper did something amazing, or crazy, depending upon whom you talk to. Near the Washington-Oregon border, presumably between Vancouver and perhaps Clark County, he ordered the pilot to open the rear downward stair hatch.  Boeing 727's had a unique feature, there was a ramp that could be lowered from the bottom back of the plane, complete with stairs.

A 727 is pictured below. The ramp drops out of the bottom back of the plane.

A Boeing 727 --Getty Images

  Cooper descended the ramp wearing a chute and clutching the case with the money, and plummeted into the dark, cloudy rainy night! 

 

The FBI says he was not suitably dressed for such a jump, it would have been tough for even an experienced parachute.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

Cooper disappeared, and despite years of searching the FBI never found him. He had removed his tie before jumping, it was used to be a DNA sample many years later.

No trace of him has ever been found, except in 1980 a boy hiking near the Tena Sandbar on the Columbia River east of Vancouver came across a pile of rotting $20 dollar bills, $5,800 in all, whose serial numbers matched the ransom money.  The money was in a clump as if it had perhaps been in the satchel and the rest had decomposed.

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This discovery led to a new wave of efforts to search for him, and private efforts continue to this day. However, in 2016, the FBI officially announced that resources used to find Cooper was being reallocated to other searches.

 Interesting note: Following the Cooper hijacking, Boeing outfitted the 727 with a switch that made it impossible to lower the rear stairway while the airplane was in flight. Previously, it could be. Apparently, nobody ever thought a hijacker would use it! 

 

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