Who Was D.B. Cooper?

Who Was D.B. Cooper?


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It's the only unsolved hijacking case in the history of commercial aviation. On the afternoon of November 24, 1971—Thanksgiving Eve—a man aboard a flight from Portland to Seattle threatened to detonate a bomb if he didn't receive a hefty ransom. Once he got the money, the hijacker released all passengers and ordered the crew to fly to Mexico. En route, with cash in hand, the man parachuted from the aircraft.

This man was known as D.B. Cooper. After a 45-year FBI investigation, his identity, whereabouts and motive remain unknown. No one even knows whether he survived the jump—and one of the prime suspects died in 2019.

WATCH: Full episodes of History's Greatest Mysteries online now and tune in for all-new episodes Saturdays at 9/8c.

The FBI Account

The FBI's extensive record on D.B. Cooper describe him as a "white male, 6'1" tall, 170-175 pounds, age-mid-forties, olive complexion, brown eyes, black hair, conventional cut, parted on left." Cooper boarded Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305, he settled in his aisle seat at the rear of the 727, lit a cigarette, and ordered a bourbon and soda. Then he handed a note to Florence Schaffner, a 23-year-old flight attendant. "I have a bomb in my briefcase," it read. "I want you to sit next to me."

Schaffner did as instructed. Cooper told her the rest of his demands: $200,000 and four parachutes, delivered on landing at Sea-Tac Airport. While police and airline staff on the ground scrambled to assemble the money and chutes, the pilots flew in circles above Seattle. Passengers were told that a minor mechanical issue had forced the plane to burn fuel, prolonging a flight that would normally take 30 minutes.

After three-and-a-half hours in the air, the 727 finally landed. Having received his money and parachutes, Cooper dismissed all 36 passengers and two of the six crew members. The plane refueled and took off for Cooper's next requested destination: Mexico, via Reno and Yuma to refuel. During the first leg, with the crew in the cockpit, Cooper lowered the rear stairs and parachuted into a thunderstorm. He has never been found.

The FBI followed thousands of leads to find Cooper, considering more than 800 suspects in the five years following the incident. Below are some men who have been considered suspects.

Richard McCoy, Jr.

On April 7, 1972, a man traveling under a fake name boarded a Newark-Los Angeles flight. Shortly after take-off he handed a note to one of the flight attendants. The note demanded $500,000 and four parachutes. If these were not furnished, the man, a seasoned skydiver and helicopter pilot, would bomb the plane. The 727 landed and refueled, the hijacker exchanged passengers for cash and parachutes, and, en route to the next destination, he jumped from the rear stairs to freedom. Sound familiar?

This hijacking occurred less than five months after the D.B. Cooper incident, leading many to suspect that the same culprit may have been responsible. The perpetrator of the April crime, Richard McCoy, Jr., was convicted of air piracy and received a 45-year prison sentence. On August 10, 1974, however, he and some fellow inmates hijacked a garbage truck and escaped their Pennsylvania penitentiary. When the FBI finally tracked McCoy down in Virginia three months later, a shoot-out left him dead.

Sheridan Peterson

A more under-the-radar suspect through the years has been Sheridan Peterson, who fell under suspicion within a week of the skyjacking, but wasn't interviewed by the FBI until decades later. Peterson, a former Boeing employee, worked in the department that wrote the flight manual for the Boeing 727 jet that was hijacked—a familiarity that might explain how the perpetrator knew the aircraft had back stairs he could open and jump from. An accomplished skydiver, Peterson worked for a time as a smokejumper in Montana. He also worked at the Issaquah Skydive Center in the early 1960s—the same place that would later provide parachutes used by Cooper in his escape.

Unlike descriptions of Cooper, however, Peterson has blue eyes, not brown. And while Cooper had chain-smoked on the flight, Peterson is not known to have been a smoker. At the time of the hijacking, Peterson told authorities, he was living with his wife and family in Nepal, although he offered no definitive proof that he hadn't traveled back at the time of the hijacking.

Robert Rackstraw

Back in the 1970s, pilot and former paratrooper Robert Rackstraw had a whole lot going on. Grand theft, $75,000 worth of bad checks, and the possible murder of his stepfather were just a few of the infractions for which authorities nabbed him. After being acquitted of the murder charge, Rackstraw saw fit to fake his own death in 1978 by logging a false mayday call from a rented plane in northern California. He spent two years in prison for check fraud and theft of an aircraft.

In the 2016 book The Last Master Outlaw, authors Thomas J. Colbert and Tom Szollosi presented evidence gathered during a five-year investigation into Rackstraw's past. They concluded he was the legendary hijacker, a claim Rackstraw's lawyer called "the stupidest thing I've ever heard." Rackstraw died from a heart condition on July 9, 2019.

Kenneth Christiansen

Kenneth Christiansen had a more direct link to the Cooper incident: he had worked for Northwest—the hijacked airline—as a mechanic, flight attendant and purser. Kenneth's brother Lyle claims that when Kenneth was on his death bed in 1994, he said, "There is something you should know, but I cannot tell you!"

Kenneth had been a military paratrooper. The year after the D.B. Cooper hijacking, despite being on a modest flight attendant's salary, he bought a house in cash.

Clues in the D.B. Cooper Case

Cannily, Cooper had taken his ransom note back from the flight attendant, so investigators were unable to examine it. Cooper did leave a few traces behind, though: some cigarette butts, a hair on the headrest of his seat and a clip-on necktie, which he tore from his collar before hurtling himself from the plane. Unfortunately, the FBI could not get any fingerprints from the items.

Though it was initially believed that Cooper was a battle-scarred skydiver—perhaps a paratrooper—further analysis found that he was likely no expert. "No experienced parachutist would have jumped in the pitch-black night, in the rain, with a 200-mile-an-hour wind in his face, wearing loafers and a trench coat," said FBI Special Agent Larry Carr in 2007. Investigators also thought Cooper acted alone. If he had worked with an accomplice, he would have requested a much more specific flight path rather than saying "Fly to Mexico" and jumping out when visibility was poor.

In 1980, a child's discovery reignited interest in the mystery. Eight-year-old Brian Ingram was digging in the sand on the banks of Washington's Columbia River when he found a bundle of rotting $20 bills totaling $5,800. When his parents contacted the police, they learned the serial numbers on the cash matched those from the stash given to D.B. Aside from the few items left behind on the plane, this is the only material evidence found from the hijacking. Six years after he discovered the money, Ingram was allowed to keep $2,760 of it. In 2008 he sold 15 of the fragmented $20 bills at auction for $37,433.38.

In the wake of the hijacking, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered that "Cooper vanes," named after the elusive D.B., must be installed in all Boeing 727 aircraft. A Cooper vane is a small latch fitted to the outside of all planes with rear stairs. The latch prevents anyone from opening the door mid-flight, just as D.B. Cooper did as he leaped into the air—and vanished into obscurity.


D.B. Cooper, a 727, And $200,000: The Greatest Unsolved Mystery Of The '70s

D.B. Cooper was a thief and a hijacker who escaped capture by jumping out of a Boeing 727 -- and left us with one of the biggest unsolved crimes of the '70s. The brazenness of Cooper's plan, the fact that he seemed to have executed it perfectly, and perhaps most of all his complete disappearance, has made him a folk hero in spite of our own law-abiding instincts.

Because, of course, you wouldn't steal $200,000, you wouldn't threaten a flight attendant with a supposed bomb, you wouldn't parachute out of that plane -- but man, wouldn't that be the way to go? You'd be halfway to anywhere, starting a new life with your suitcase full of cash, while the clueless FBI was still combing the woods near Mt. St. Helens.

Cooper, who actually did steal $200,000 on November 24, 1971, has never been found and he's never been identified, making this crime the only unsolved case of air piracy in the history of aviation. Long thought to be dead, Cooper remains a mystery with some FBI agents believing him to be dead in spite of the lack of a body, and others thinking that he's a member of their ranks.

The case was suspended in 2016, so we may never really know what actually happened with Cooper. His jump changed him from some guy in a suit with a job to a piece of real deal American mythology. We love the story of D.B. Cooper because it tells that we too can enter the annals of history with little more than a plan and the courage to jump.


Who was D.B. Cooper?

The story begins on Nov. 24, 1971, when a man calling himself Dan Cooper bought a one way ticket to Seattle from Portland, Oregon. The FBI described him as "a quiet man who appeared to be in his mid-40s, wearing a business suit with a black tie and white shirt."

When the flight was midair, he handed a note to a flight attendant and told her he had a bomb before showing it to her. She then took a note to the plane's captain that demanded four parachutes and $200,000 in twenty-dollar bills.

The plane then landed in Seattle where the hijacker let all the passengers free in exchange for the money and parachutes. With some crew members still on board, the flight took off again, headed toward Mexico City.

What happens next is where the story gets even more mysterious. It's not known exactly where, but before the flight reached Reno, Nevada around 8 p.m., Cooper jumped out of the plane with the parachute and money in hand. The plane eventually landed safely in Reno.

Artist's rendering of skyjacking suspect D.B. Cooper. (Photo: USA TODAY)

The FBI opened an investigation into the incident and still not much is known as to who Cooper was. There is no report on whether he made a safe landing or died, nor any information as to where he may be.

Over 800 people were deemed as suspects, with one man being the lead suspect due to a similar hijacking five months later. However, that man didn't match the physical descriptions the flight crew gave of Cooper.

The FBI suggests that Cooper may have died before landing due to his parachute being unable to steer. It was also confirmed that a young boy found a package of twenty-dollar bills near Vancouver, Washington in 1980, that were the same bills given to Cooper.

With no hard leads, the FBI closed the case in 2016 and all evidence has been preserved at the FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The case is dubbed as "one of the great unsolved mysteries in FBI history," and if the first episode is any indication, Loki may be the reason behind more of the most mysterious events in history.


The new episode of Loki links the 'god of mischief' to Cooper's case

In the first episode of "Loki," Agent Mobius (played by Owen Wilson) shows Loki scenes from his life, including his defeat at the hands of the Avengers heroes in the first "Avengers" film and. But more surprisingly, one scene shows Loki dressed in a suit on a plane. He then orders a drink (bourbon and soda) and hands a flight attendant a note, telling her that he has a bomb.

Later, he straps himself into a parachute, takes the money, and jumps out of the plane midair. Rather than taking his chances with the fall, he's safely snapped up by the Bifröst — the Asgardian mode of transportation that allows people to hop through the nine realms — as the money scatters through the air.

"I can't believe you were D.B. Cooper," Mobius says after the sequence ends. "Come on!"

The incident was the result of Loki losing a bet to Thor, according to the show.

In the writer's room, it came from the brain of head writer Michael Waldron, who told Decider that he wanted to play with people's expectations for the time travel elements of the show and thought that Cooper's story was a fun piece of "American folklore" to invoke.


'Loki' Just Explained One Of The Biggest Mysteries In US History - D.B. Cooper

Loki made a huge impact with it’s premiere episode and unraveled one of history’s biggest mysteries – D.B. Cooper.

If you’re unfamiliar, the mystery of who D.B. Cooper is starts in November of 1971, when a man who called himself Dan Cooper, boarded a plane to Seattle.

After the plane took off, he handed a note to one of the air stewards, saying that he had a bomb in his briefcase and proceeded to hijack it, and demanded four parachutes and $200,000 in $20 bills.

When the flight landed in Seattle, Cooper exchanged the plane’s passengers for the money and parachutes and, with only some of the crew still on board the plane with him, headed towards Mexico City. However, he jumped out during the flight with the money and was never heard from again.

Click inside to read more about the inclusion of D.B. Cooper…

Tom Hiddleston and writer Michael Waldron opened up about the inclusion of the mystery into Loki’s timeline and why it made complete sense.

“We were trying to think of ways [for] how Loki, as an incarnation of mischief, might have previously come down to Earth and done various mischievous things and then disappeared,” Tom shared with TVLine. “Perhaps for the human race, these were our unexplained stories.”

Michael added that he “needed an example of a time the TVA hadn’t interfered in Loki’s life when perhaps Loki would think, ‘Maybe you guys should have,’ and that felt like a particularly chaotic moment from history…And now we know: Loki’s D.B. Cooper. The mystery’s solved!”

D.B. Cooper‘s true identity and fate have never been uncovered.

Check out some of the reactions to the reveal below:

#Loki as DB Cooper is the hottest thing on all the realms no firemen can stop him.

&mdash chocofit (@chocofittt) June 10, 2021

SHUT UP DID THEY JUST INSINUATE LOKI WAS DB COOPER?! #Loki

&mdash mady met louis (@flyhometolou) June 10, 2021

LOKI WAS DB COOPER ?? BECAUSE OF A BET WITH THOR.

&mdash 青木 aoki | irondad (@STARK1SM) June 10, 2021

MARVEL ADDING DB COOPER IN THE LOKI SERIES IS THE BEST THING EVER LMFAOOOO

&mdash samí (@0mgkys) June 10, 2021

#Spoiler

After all the DB Cooper theories I've seen on History Channel, #Loki finally offered one that is completely believable.

&mdash Christopher Mulholland (@CJ_Mulholland) June 10, 2021

SPOILER ALERT: LOKI

Loki being DB Cooper is the most on brand, random, and amazing thing ever omg

&mdash Katie-Beth Gamblin (@kbgamblin) June 10, 2021


Who was D.B. Cooper actually?

"I can't believe you were D.B. Cooper," Mobius tells Loki after the fun flashback sequence. And, honestly, Loki being D.B. Cooper's true identity would make about as much sense as any answer we've ever gotten on this real-life mystery/tale.

Most notably? The fact that the real D.B. Cooper&mdashwho did hijack a commercial airline flight, and who did collect more than $200,000 in ransom, and who did jump mid-air from a plane&mdashwould likely not have survived a high-risk jump from that distance up in the sky. Yet, a body was never found, and very few answers around the case exist, period. So, if you want to tell yourself that he really was Loki Laufeyson, well, you probably aren't any further off than anyone else.

And for what it's worth? Hiddleston is on board with the theory too. "It was really fun," he said in an interview with Decider. "And as far as I&rsquom aware, we still haven&rsquot tracked D.B. Cooper down, so&hellip."

As the full story goes, a passenger named Dan Cooper boarded a Boeing 727 aircraft on November 24, 1971. The flight, which took off from the Portland International Airport, was only supposed to be a 30-minute flight north, heading for Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Cooper, who was said to be a white man in his mid-40s in a suit with a black tie and white shirt, had a black suitcase next to him on board, and ordered one drink&mdasha bourbon and soda. All of this is depicted in the Loki scene, so safe to say the powers behind the show did their homework.

In fact, the line that Loki gives the flight attendant&mdash"Ma'am, you'd better take a look at that note. I have a bomb."&mdashis what Cooper actually said onboard the plane.

From there is the part that Loki skipped through a little bit. No one knows for sure what the note really said (since Cooper took it back after the attendant read it), but it did say something about a bomb, and instructed her to sit in the open seat next to him. He then opened the case for her (upon her request) enough to see the infrastructure of a bomb inside, and gave her his instructions/demands. He wanted $200,000 in cash, four parachutes, and a fuel tank to fill the plane back up when they stopped at Seattle (to both retrieve the money and allow the passengers to exit). She went to the cockpit to deliver these instructions, and when she returned, Cooper was wearing dark sunglasses he's best known for (and that Hiddleston wears in the show scene). Fun bet, Heimdall and Thor!

After letting the passengers off at Seattle, the flight took back off with only Cooper, a pilot, a co-pilot, a flight engineer, and a flight attendant on board. It's not known when, exactly Cooper (who is only known as DB instead of Dan due to a news miscommunication) jumped from the plane it took off again at 7:40 that night, and by the time it was landed, at 10:15, he was no longer aboard.

Through the years, numerous suspects and leads were pursued, but there was never any definitive evidence that led to the case being closed. The FBI's case file eventually reached more than 60 volumes, but, again&mdashthere was never a definitive answer.


Recent Case Movements

In 2016, the FBI announced it was closing the book on its Cooper investigation in order to redirect resources. The Bureau&aposs existing evidence will be preserved. However, Cooper&aposs cigarette butts from the flight, which could contain DNA, are missing.

Civilians continue to pursue leads. In 2020, an amateur scientist shared that he&aposd discovered microscopic bits of algae ("diatoms") on the money that had been dug up in 1980. The diatoms on these bills only bloom in spring, and the bills had only one season of diatoms on them. This means the money did not go into the water at the time of Cooper&aposs November 1971 jump, which had been one theory.


Who is D.B. Cooper in Loki episode 1?

D.B. Cooper is the name given by a man who hijacked Flight #305 in 1971, managing to convince the FBI to assemble $200,000 from several Seattle banks in ransom money, before parachuting out of the back of the plane. The identity of D.B. Cooper has never been revealed, though Loki has provided a fun spin on the notorious crime.

In Loki episode 1, Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius shows the God of Mischief one of his “favorite” examples of his many escapes. This then cuts to Loki onboard the famous ’71 flight to Seattle, Washington, where he hands the air stewardess a note before revealing that he is carrying a bomb. The stewardess refers to Loki as “Mr Cooper,” revealing that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Loki was the perpetrator of this crime all along.

As was the case in the real-world crime, the flight stops at Seattle where Loki is handed the $200,000 and the passengers are released, before the flight takes off once again with Loki on board. Loki then jumps out of the plane, before being transported back to Asgard. In reality, Cooper leapt out of the plane with four parachutes given to him alongside the cash, with the only evidence left behind being his black J.C. Penney tie that he removed before his incredible jump.

In the real world, there have been some suspects profiled by the FBI, but none matched the identical physical descriptions given of D.B. Cooper by witnesses on the flight. While it remains an unsolved mystery, many believe that Cooper may have died following the jump from the plane, given his lack of appropriate clothing and the fact that he descended into a wooded area at night. This speculation is backed up following a young boy’s 1980 discovery of a rotting package of $5,800 in twenty-dollar bills, with this money matching the serial numbers of the cash given to Cooper.

While the FBI may have never caught D.B. Cooper in our world, the MCU’s take on one of America’s most notorious hijackings is an interesting one, and shows how present that Loki has been throughout history.

In other news, Space Jam 2 fans have complained that Zendaya is the voice actress for Lola Bunny in the upcoming sequel. Fortnite fans were also dismayed to learn that Pickle Rick was not included in its latest update.


D.B. Cooper

Shortly after takeoff, a thin, olive-skinned man motioned for the flight attendant from the back of the plane. When she approached, the man slipped her a note and whispered, “Read that.” The flight attendant, thinking the man just wanted a date, stuck the piece of paper in her pocket and began to walk off. The man stopped her.

In the roughly three hours that followed, the man — calling himself Dan Cooper — pulled off the first and only successful major skyjacking in the United States.

On Sunday, the case will have baffled FBI agents for 25 years. Authorities still don’t know where Cooper came from or where he went with $200,000 ransom after he leaped from the plane with a parachute somewhere over Cowlitz or Clark counties.

Cooper was described as calm, calculating and cordial throughout the ordeal. He didn’t hurt anybody, and he beat the best crime fighters this country could muster. For his deed, Cooper has been immortalized by some as a folk hero. Otto Larsen, a University of Washington sociologist who studied the case, described the public’s admiration for Cooper this way:

It was “an awesome feat in the battle of man against the machine — one man overcoming, technology, the corporation, the establishment, the system. Thus, the hijacker comes off as a kind of curious Robin Hood, taking from the rich — or at least the big and complex. It doesn’t matter whether he gives it to the poor.”

Ralph Himmelsbach, the FBI agent who chased Cooper until retirement in 1980, said in previous interviews Cooper probably was an outcast who died with his money in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.

“(Cooper) was very likely an ex-con who was going to make one last, desperate go for the big one,” Himmelsbach said. “If he made it, fine. If not, he probably felt he had very little to lose.”

Himmelsbach said Cooper’s finale probably wasn’t glorious or romantic. He said Cooper likely was injured in the parachute jump and died.

Cooper’s plunge

It was a dark and rainy Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 24, 1971, when a man calling himself Dan Cooper appeared at the Northwest Orient Airlines ticket counter at Portland International Airport. He paid cash for a 4:35 p.m. flight to Seattle, then waited 50 minutes to board the plane. He took a seat near the back.

Moments after takeoff, he handed the attendant the note that warned the crew he had a bomb.

He even gave the flight attendant a peek inside his briefcase, which contained a tangle of wires and red sticks that appeared to be explosives.

He told her he wanted $200,000, four parachutes and “no funny stuff.” He threatened to destroy the plane if not flown to safety. About 5:40 p.m., the plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where it was refueled and other passengers were evacuated.

Cooper’s demands were met by authorities. He then ordered the plane to fly toward Mexico via Reno at no more than 10,000 feet. He wanted the wing flaps partially down and landing gear lowered, keeping the plane at a speed safe for jumping.

After takeoff from Seattle, Cooper ordered the one remaining attendant into the cockpit. He lowered the rear stairway about 8 p.m. At 8:13 p.m., as the plane flew over the Lewis River and Southwest Washington, the plane’s gauges recorded a slight bump in pressure. The FBI figured that was when Cooper jumped.

Cooper, the money and two parachutes were missing when the plane landed in Reno.

One of the missing parachutes was a training model that was inoperable and sewn shut. The other was a sport parachute that could have dropped undetected by the three Air Force planes following the skyjacker’s flight. FBI agents who inspected the plane also found a skinny black tie, a tie tack, cigarette butts and a few unidentified fingerprints.

Authorities leaked to the press that they were questioning a Portland man named Daniel B. Cooper, who went by his initials. But that D.B. Cooper was cleared, and the infamous D.B. Cooper was created by headlines.

Heavy rain hampered the ensuing air-ground search of Southwest Washington, which had its headquarters in Woodland City Hall. Authorities combed the area for 18 days with planes, helicopters and more than 300 soldiers. No trace of Cooper was found.

In 1980, an 8-year-old Vancouver boy uncovered a stack of the ransom money in the sand at Tena Bar on the Columbia River, five miles downriver from downtown Vancouver.

That led to more speculation and searches but still no Cooper. FBI agent Himmelsbach later acknowledged that more money had been spent looking for Cooper than the hijacker made off with in ransom.

“We have to accept the possibility that we may never know (any more about Cooper),” Himmelsbach said. “I guess we can live with that, if we have to.”

TEST YOUR D.B. I.Q.

1. What was the slogan on T-shirts created by local entrepreneurs after D.B. Cooper’s skyjacking?

2. What national weekly magazine at the last minute killed a cover story with a supposedly authentic Cooper interview?

3. Cooper was particularly familiar with what part of Washington?

4. In 1980, a Cooper copycat tried to skyjack a Boeing 727 at Sea-Tac International Airport. How did that case end up?

5. What did the 8-year-old Vancouver boy get in return for the $5,800 of Cooper’s money he found on the banks of the Columbia River?

6. In 1981, Hollywood produced a movie called “The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper.” Name two of the stars.

You’ll find the answers below.

* Last seen: Nov. 24, 1971, wearing wrap-around sunglasses, a black suit, white shirt and dark raincoat.

* Smoked: Filter-tip cigarettes

* Deameanor: Calm, yet at times obscene and demanding

D.B. I.Q. ANSWERS

1. “D.B. Cooper, Where Are You?”

2. Newsweek.

3. Tacoma. During a conversation with the flight attendant, Cooper said he could recognize Tacoma from the air and asked that his parachutes be brought from Tacoma’s McChord Air Force Base.

4. A flight attendant slipped the man a couple of Valiums. He later reduced his demands from $100,000 and two parachutes to a rental car and three cheeseburgers.

5. The boy, Brian Ingram, received a $2,760 reward, including 15 of the original Cooper bills. His mother said he bought a motorcycle and VCR with it. The rest was deposited in a bank for college.

6. Robert Duvall, Kathryn Harrold, Treat Williams and Ed Flanders.


Who was D.B. Cooper?

If I had the answer to that question, I wouldn’t be here turning out a dozen or more articles every single week—I’d be in charge of the FBI! The mystery is that no one knows who D.B. Cooper is or was, or even if he survived his infamous heist. The only thing history knows for certain is what Cooper did in the air on November 24, 1971.

Taran Killam as D.B. Cooper on Drunk History ©Comedy Central/Courtesy Everett Collection

A man who purchased a ticket under the name Dan Cooper (a mispronunciation on a news broadcast led to everything thinking the name was D.B. Cooper) boarded a Boeing 727 in Portland en route to Seattle. Once in-air, Cooper—just like Loki does in the episode—handed a note to the flight attendant. When she assumed it was a phone number and started to pocket it, Cooper whispered, “Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.” Loki got that part spot on.

Cooper requested that upon landing in Seattle, the plane would be refueled and he would be provided with four parachutes—oh, and $200,000. His demands were met in Seattle, and all the passengers safely exited the plane. Then the plane took off again, as Cooper demanded. A half hour after takeoff, Cooper tied what was presumably the moneybag around his waist, strapped on a parachute, and leapt out of the plane. And that was that—and he was never caught. He also may not have survived, but then his body was never found either. Some of the money was found way later… but that’s it.

If you want to learn a lot more about Cooper, as well as the hunt to track him down and the stories of a few of the many, many suspects at one point believed to be D.B. Cooper, you can watch The Mystery of D.B. Cooper on HBO Max.


A Possible Identification

Hundreds of leads came in through the years, but none have yielded any convictions. Arguably the best suspect was Kenneth Christiansen, not identified as a suspect until his brother Lyle came forward in 2003.

Kenneth Christensen was trained in the Army as a paratrooper in 1944 and after the war worked for Northwest Orient Airlines as a purser. He looked very similar to the sketches and had many of the same habits and tendencies of the suspect. He had always worn a toupee but stopped wearing it right after the hijacking.

Christiansen was said to own the same tie clasp, smoke the same brand cigarettes, and prefer the same bourbon drink that D.B. Cooper had ordered on the flight. Christiansen purchased a house with cash not long after the hijacking, and was reportedly disgruntled with his employer, Northwest Orient Airlines.

Lyle said Kenneth died in 1994 and admitted to having a dark secret on his deathbed – but never did say what. When going through Kenneth’s things, the Christiansen family found over $200k in his bank accounts and various newspaper clippings about Northwest Orient Airlines with various dates that stopped just prior to the hijacking – despite the fact that the hijacking was the most newsworthy event in the airline’s history.

Given all this, the FBI didn’t consider Kenneth Christiansen a prime suspect, and the case is still considered open.


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