“I have a bomb in my briefcase. You are being hijacked.”
On the day before Thanksgiving in 1971 a man calling himself Dan Cooper boarded a Boeing 727-100, Northwest Orient (now Northwest Airlines) Flight 305, at Portland International Airport in Oregon, bound for Seattle, Washington. He was in his mid 40s, about 1.82 m (6 ft) tall, and wearing a black raincoat, loafers, a dark suit, a white shirt, a black tie, black sunglasses and a mother-of-pearl tie pin. He sat in seat 18C, for which he had paid $18.52, and not long after take-off passed a note to air hostess Florence Schaffner.
Assuming he was passing her his telephone number, she put the note into her pocket without looking at it. Cooper said, “Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.” With trembling hands she unfurled the note, which read, “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.” The note also demanded $200,000 in used $20 notes and four parachutes.
The FBI decided to accede to Cooper’s demands. While the authorities were busy on the ground, Cooper relaxed and drank bourbon and soda. Air hostess Tina Mucklow later commented that the hijacker “seemed rather nice”. At 5.24pm the plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport near Seattle, Washington.
The four parachutes and the money were delivered to Cooper who released all 36 passengers and air hostess Florence Schaffner, as he had promised. The plane was refuelled and, having checked the parachutes and money, Cooper told the crew to take off at 7.40pm and head for Mexico City but then decided on Reno, Nevada as the destination.
At 8.13pm, during a heavy rainstorm, Cooper lowered the aft stairs and jumped from the plane over southwestern Washington. He would never be seen again. At 10.15pm the Boeing landed at Reno and the FBI recovered two of the four parachutes.
Sky over Portland, Oregon, USA
Wednesday 24 November 1971
More than 35 years after the event the police are no nearer to identifying the hijacker or explaining what happened to the bulk of the money. The FBI interviewed a man named D.B. Cooper who had no link with the crime but the initials D.B., rather than Dan, continue to be used to refer to the hijacker.
The FBI, which has codenamed the case Norjak, believes that Cooper did not survive the parachute jump. On 10 February 1980 Brian Ingram, eight, found $5,880 in decaying $20 notes on the banks of the Columbia River, 8 km (5 mi) northwest of Vancouver, Washington. It was part of Cooper’s hoard and 15 of the notes were auctioned in Dallas on 13 June 2008, raising $37,000.