D.B. Cooper

Did you recognize the name? On this date in history in 1971, a hijacker who became popularly known as “D.B. Cooper” parachuted from a Northwest Orient Airlines 727 over the Pacific Northwest after receiving $200,000 in ransom ($1.3 million in 2020 dollars). He parachuted from the plane between Portland and Seattle to an uncertain fate. Despite an extensive manhunt and protracted FBI investigation, “D.B. Cooper” has never been located or identified. It remains the only unsolved case of air piracy in commercial aviation history.

Have you seen this man! The image on the left is an artist rendition from 1971. The image on the right is an artistic estimate of a possible age progression. That is, if he survived the jump. While he has never been found, some of the ransom bills were discovered along the Columbia River in 1980.

Many FBI agents are of the opinion that Cooper probably did not survive his high-risk jump, but his remains have never been recovered. There was an active FBI investigation for 45 years after the hijacking. Despite a case file that has grown to over 60 volumes over that period, no definitive conclusions have been reached regarding Cooper’s true identity or whereabouts. Numerous theories of widely varying plausibility have been proposed over the years by investigators, reporters, and amateur enthusiasts. A young boy discovered a small cache of ransom bills along the banks of the Columbia River in February 1980. The find triggered renewed interest but ultimately only deepened the mystery, and the great majority of the ransom remains unrecovered. The FBI officially suspended active investigation of the case in July 2016.

The theories, speculations, and possible suspects – even the formation of a citizen’s sleuth team (Sherlock Holmes’ Irregulars?) – all of it is covered on D.B. Cooper’s wiki page. He even has a page on the FBI’s “famous cases and criminals” web page! There is a YouTube video about the scientific hunt for Cooper (~3.5 minutes) … so, if you have a little “down time” this Thanksgiving holiday, immerse yourself into the mystery of D.B. Cooper.

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