He Was the Most Wanted Man in America, Here’s What He Did

7 months ago

Everyone stares at the flight attendant as she hastily walks past the passengers. She ignores any request that comes to her and rushes to the cockpit. Everyone looks at each other confused.

Is there a problem with the plane? Behind all these worried people, one man is sitting patiently waiting for his plan to unfold. No one knew the danger they were about to be in.

(November 1971) It’s Thanksgiving. Everyone is boarding a plane from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington for the holidays. Everything seemed like a typical day at the airport except for when D.B. Cooper walked in. No one noticed him and no one suspected anything out of him. He is a man of mystery. And when I say mystery, I mean D.B. Cooper isn’t his actual name!

Until this day, no one knows his real identity. All we know is that he bought a ticket under the name of Dan Cooper. But the media came into the picture and started telling this story portraying him as D.B. Cooper. And ever since then, he was known by this name. He was described by witnesses as a middle-aged man in his mid-40s. He was wearing a dark business suit with a black raincoat. He wore a white shirt and a thin black tie.

The flight was short — 37 minutes to be exact. So, nobody figured that something terrible was going to happen. He boarded a Boeing 727 carrying nothing but a black briefcase and a brown paper bag. Back then, there wasn’t any background checking or luggage scanning for safety measures. You’d just walk in, grab your seat, and be done. He strategically took a seat in the last row and ordered some beverages just as the plane was ready for takeoff. In a few minutes, the pilot announces that they’re ready to fly.

The passengers onboard are expecting to munch on some delicious turkey and be with their families in less than an hour. Cooper had other plans and waited until the plane was in mid-flight. He noticed that everyone was minding their own business. He had a note with him and waited for the flight attendant to approach him, so he could give it to her. Her seat was directly behind him so once she was nearby, he handed her the note.

At first, the flight attendant didn’t make much of the note thinking that the middle-aged man was just handing her his phone number. But then he leaned in towards her and told her to read it. Her face turned white. She couldn’t tell whether this was a prank, or he was serious. But she looked at him, and he wouldn’t blink. The note was hinting that he was carrying something devastating in his luggage. To keep everyone safe, he demanded $200 000 by 5 PM.

It might not seem like a lot of money to demand given you’re in a position of power but back then it was a lot. That value now would be around 1.4 million dollars. He also requested two front parachutes and 2 main parachutes to be worn on his back. The flight attendant passed the message to the pilot who made the request through the radio. At first, no one noticed anything but then news caught on about Cooper’s plans. They noticed how the flight attendant was jittery and uncomfortable.

Once they landed in Seattle, Cooper wasn’t done. He seemed confident in his plan according to the people on board. They brought him the money and refueled the plane so that he can continue with his plan. They also brought the parachutes as he demanded.

He was meticulous in the order in which his demands were met. He wouldn’t let anyone off the plane unless the money was brought in. He asked for 4 civilian parachutes that the authorities brought from a skydiving school. Once he received his parachutes, he allowed the passengers to leave.

The only people left on the plane were 3 flight members and 3 cabin crew. Cooper was losing his patience since refueling the plane was delayed. On top of that, they didn’t deliver the money to him in a knapsack as he asked. According to witnesses, he was a calm person and didn’t lash out at anyone.

But eventually, the plane took off. No one knew what his plan was. He showed the flight plan to the pilots and told them to fly toward Mexico City as slowly as possible and to remain at around 10,000 feet above the ground. The flight route was well-designed like someone who had aviation experience in the past.

He told them to leave the landing gear deployed during takeoff and mid-flight and for the cabin to remain unpressurized. His plan was in motion, but there was another problem. Cooper had been informed that the plane can only travel another 1,000 miles with the amount of fuel given. That means he couldn’t make it to Mexico.

After much pondering, Cooper decided that they would have to stop for another refueling. They decided to land at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Nevada. Cooper knew that this would stop him from running away with the money, so he told everyone to wait near the cockpit. He was now alone where 35 other passengers would be sitting.

It’s only been 4 or 5 minutes since the plane took off from Seattle. The pilots received a warning red light flashing showing that the internal pressure has changed. A witness recalls peeking of him tying the money to his waist as he strapped on the parachute. Some of the cabin members asked him if he needed any help through the intercom. He simply replied “no” and that was the last thing Cooper ever said to them.

Once the stairs were deployed out the tail of the plane, the back-end suddenly shifted upward, but the pilot was experienced enough to keep it flying level. They would constantly announce to Cooper that they were about to land and that they needed him to close the aft stairs. But he wasn’t responding. No one from the crew went back to see where he was.

They landed safely with the stairs still deployed. The authorities rushed to the scenes to sweep out the area in case he was still there. But after 30 minutes, there was no sign of him. They can confirm that Cooper had jumped out of the plane with the money strapped to him via a parachute in the pitch-black night.

And since that day, Cooper was never seen again. It’s not clear whether he made it to Mexico or not. And no evidence shows whether he survived or not. Some of the money with the same serial numbers given to him was found in Washington, but that’s the only trace of him. Either he made it back to Washington, or the money was found somewhere and spent by the finder of the loot.

If he’s around today, then he’d be in his mid-90s which equally means he may not be around today. It’s not like it was a complete dead end. Throughout the years many people became obsessed with D.B.

Cooper that they came to the authorities to claim they were the ones who did it. But they were just seeking the attention. Who wouldn’t want to be the hero in this? The authorities even believed he could’ve been Canadian since Cooper was named after a comic book hero who used to jump out of planes to escape danger.

So many theories popped out of thin air, but nothing was conclusive. There was a famous sketch of Cooper, but it’s hard to truly identify the man.

Cooper became a celebrity and a hero to some. Some people even launched a CooperCon where fans of the mystery man would meet up together and share their theories and so-called evidence of his presence. The truth is, we still don’t know.

In 2016, the authorities decided not to pursue D.B. Cooper anymore. They claimed that it was too time-consuming and one of the most exhaustive investigations in their entire history. All we know is that this incident changed the entire way we approach air travel forever.


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