Perpetrator of the world's only unsolved skyjacking, and an American folk hero.

On November 24, 1971 (the day before Thanksgiving), a man under the pseudonym of Dan Cooper (a reporter botched his name as 'D.B.' in his story) boarded Northwest Airlines' Flight 305 from Portland to Seattle. As the plane taxied down the runway, the man in Seat 18C handed a stewardess a note, claiming he had a bomb and that he would blow up the plane if he was not given $200,000 and four parachutes when the plane landed.

Upon landing at SEATAC Airport and receiving his demands, Cooper released all 36 passengers, two members of the flight crew, and ordered the remaining crew to fly to Mexico. At 10,000 feet and 80 knots, Cooper walked down the rear stairs of the plane and disappeared forever.

For five months a manhunt raged through the forests north of Portland, but to this day, Cooper has never been located, and only $5,800 dollars has been found, and not by any law enforcement officials, but rather by a boy digging a fire pit in the area in 1979.

The man most likely to be D.B. Cooper? A Florida antique dealer named Duane Weber. On his death bed in 1995 he told his wife he was Dan Cooper. His wife had no idea what he was talking about - she was his sixth wife and was told not to pry into his past. The evidence for Duane Weber being D.B. Cooper is startling:

  • Cooper's composite sketch looks very similar to photographs of Weber from the same time period, and his profile at the time of the hijacking matches Cooper's almost exactly: mid-40's, six feet tall, 170 pounds, black hair, bourbon drinker, chain smoker
  • His wife found a white bank bag in his van in 1990. The ransom money was paid to Cooper in a white canvas bank bag.
  • Four months before the boy found the $5,800, the Webers stopped in the same area, and Duane walked to the river alone.
  • Authorities feel that whoever Cooper is must have both a criminal record and military training. Weber had both.
  • There are many that feel that anyone who tried to pull a stunt like this is either crazy or suicidal. Weber might have been both. He'd been undergoing a series of personal problems, including separation from his fifth wife. In addition, he had recently been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disorder, and was not expected to live more than three years.
Despite all of this evidence, the FBI dropped its posthumous investigation of Weber because too much of the evidence was circumstantial. Meanwhile, D.B. Cooper has become the subject of books, songs, and a 1981 comedy starring Robert Duvall. It remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of the last century.
Until 1972, the Boeing 727 airliner had a curious feature - a built-in boarding ramp which could be extended whilst the plane was airborne. The villainous properties of this ramp were exploited in November 1971 by a man calling himself 'Dan Cooper'. On the 24th of November he hijacked a 727 going from Portland to Seattle, claiming to have a bomb hidden in his bag. Middle-aged, white, and wearing a suit and tie, he had managed to swan through what minimal security checks existed in 1971 (his bag wasn't even searched). Handing a note to the stewardess, and showing her what appeared to be explosive device hidden in his bag, he demanded $200,000 dollars in unmarked bills, and four parachutes.

After landing in Seattle, Cooper received his money and parachutes, and allowed the passengers to leave (in fact, they did not realise that the flight had been hijacked). Cooper then ordered the pilot to fly to Mexico, but en route to a refuelling stop in Reno, over the forested south-west of Washington, he jumped from the back of the plane with the money, and was never seen again. Having ordered the pilot to fly at less than 170mph at 10,000 feet, there was a good chance that he survived the drop, notwithstanding the fact that he jumped in the middle of the night, in sub-zero temperatures, in casual gear.

And that was that. In 1980 a child found $5,800 of the money on a riverbank near Vancouver, from which no firm conclusions can be drawn. The FBI are still technically investigating the crime, although, if he survived, Cooper would now be in his 70s (and who would turn him in, given that he entertained millions?). Along with Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, Cooper's hijacking is one of the great unsolved - insoluble - modern mysteries.

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