D.B. Cooper mystery: FBI claims 'most promising lead' in legendary hijacking
D.B. Cooper, as he has since become known, in 1971 hijacked a plane bound for Seattle, got $200,000 and a parachute in ransom for passengers, then jumped out into a stormy night. D.B. Cooper has never been found. The FBI says it has a new clue.
The FBI says it has a new clue in the search for one of America's greatest criminal folk heroes, a suit-wearing, whiskey-drinking hijacker known as "D.B. Cooper" who in 1971 parachuted out of a 727 with $200,000 in ransom cash and disappeared in the Washington woods.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Cooper, whose case is still followed by a mass of amateur sleuths and whose daring heist has elicited more than one deathbed confession, has come to represent an increasingly elusive ideal: the debonair Robin Hood who scores his cash in a victimless crime and engineers his own disappearance. The case remains the only US hijacking the FBI has never solved.
"Americans like their criminals suave and sophisticated, and this guy fits the bill," says Stephen Mihm, a folklore expert at the University of Georgia in Athens. "There's something very debonaire about the nature of the hijacking, and it was extremely risky, too, and that combination … is probably more appealing than if he he looked like a Hell's Angel and killed several people along the way. He fits our ideal of a criminal mastermind."
On a blustery Thanksgiving Eve in 1971, a slim man with aviator sunglasses sat smoking and sipping a whiskey in aisle seat 18C on a Portland-to-Seattle flight. When a stewardess came by, he handed her a note that read, in capital letters: "I HAVE A BOMB IN MY BRIEFCASE. I WILL USE IT IF NECESSARY. I WANT YOU TO SIT NEXT TO ME. YOU ARE BEING HIJACKED." When the stewardess slipped the note unread into her pocket, the man said, "Miss, you'd better look at that note. I have a bomb."
The plane landed as scheduled in Seattle, where the hijacker managed to get $200,000 and a parachute in ransom for the passengers, and then told the pilots to take off and head for Mexico. En route, he ordered the pilots to descend to 10,000 feet. When a cockpit warning light showed the rear door of the plane had been opened, the pilots asked over the intercom, "Is everything OK back there?"