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Who is D. B. Cooper?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2016
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D. B. Cooper is a man who staged a daring hijacking in 1971 which culminated with an escape from the rear stairs of a Boeing 727 while the plane was in flight. Cooper was never apprehended, and the case, known as “Norjak” by the FBI, is one of the more interesting unsolved mysteries in American history. The FBI continues to investigate the case, and in 2007, new information on D. B. Cooper was released, in the hopes of cracking the case once and for all.

On 24 November, 1971, Dan Cooper boarded a plane flying from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington. Once the plane was in flight, he passed a message to a stewardess, indicating that he had a bomb and that the plane was being hijacked. He demanded four parachutes and $200,000 US, which Northwest Orient, the airline operating the flight, agreed to provide after extended negotiations held while the plane hovered over Puget Sound.

At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Cooper released the passengers of the flight while the money and parachutes were loaded and the plane was refueled. He demanded to be taken to Mexico City, and after being informed by the flight crew that the plane wouldn't be able to make that distance, he settled on Reno, Nevada. Cooper also requested that the cabin be left unpressurized, suggesting that he might try and make an escape from the plane while in flight.

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At 8:13 PM, D. B. Cooper did just that, lowering the rear stairs of the aircraft and jumping out, never to be seen again. His jump went unnoticed by Air Force jets trailing the aircraft, and the precise location of his projected landing was difficult to ascertain. Despite over a year of searching in the region where he disappeared, D. B. Cooper was never seen again, although some of the money was found in 1980.

It is believed that Cooper probably perished in his attempt, given the fact that he was poorly dressed for skydiving, and the visibility conditions that night were very bad, which would have made it difficult to manage a controlled landing. The name “Dan Cooper” was clearly an alias, and despite releasing images of Cooper and later using DNA testing to try and identify him, the FBI was never able to figure out who D. B. Cooper really was, let alone what happened to him.

The D. B. Cooper case sparked a number of copycat attempts, along with some reforms in the airline industry, including the Cooper vane, a device which prevents the stairs of aircraft from being opened while the plane is in flight.

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