52 Years Later: The Mystery of America’s Only Unsolved Plane Hijacking – Who Was Culprit D.B. Cooper?

Many of you may know about the notorious hijacker D.B. Cooper, who has remained a staple of Pacific Northwest history for the last few decades, as most of the story specifically took place in Washington. However, some may not know how the story concluded. Did they ever catch him, or has he remained a mystery? The 52-year anniversary mark has recently arrived, and it’s a story that every Pacific Northwesterner has to know.

A man who claimed to be Dan Cooper took a regular flight from Portland International Airport to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA-TAC). Sitting at the back of the plane, he threatened one of the flight attendants in secrecy with rods and a battery, imposed as an explosive, and demanded $200,000 along with parachutes. After communication with the crew and authorities, the pilots postponed the landing and were flying above SEA-TAC in circles while authorities were acquiring the materials.

After landing, the passengers exited the plane normally without suspecting anything as there was no sign of danger in the open. After receiving the ransom, Cooper’s initial orders, communicated through the flight attendant, were to leave the stairway open in the air while cruising at a 10,000-foot altitude toward Mexico. After settling to land in Reno, Nevada for a pit stop to refuel, Dan Cooper (eventually mistaken and known to be D.B. Cooper) demanded to be left alone in the commercial aircraft cabin. Approximately 45 minutes after takeoff, the flight crew in the cockpit claimed to hear a vibration, insinuating that D.B. Cooper had jumped. With the flight path and time as supporting evidence, the FBI search team initiated their search, “NORJAK,”  just north of Portland. This night marked the beginning of one of the world’s most famous mystery cases ever.

Unfortunately, the FBI was unable to locate any trace of D.B. Cooper, as the terrain and weather were working in Cooper’s favor. However, Seattle First National Bank had marked the ransom bills’ serial numbers so they could distinguish them from day-to-day change if any of his money was exchanged. Ultimately, their attempts were a failure until nine years later, when eight-year-old Brian Ingram uncovered $5,800 while fishing with his father. It had serial numbers that matched the recorded ones at Seattle First National Bank. They were unable to conclude anything with the addition of the money, as it had created more questions and mysteries. That last $5,800, until today, is the only remaining evidence of the money since the incident.

Many believe that Cooper didn’t survive the initial fall due to his seeming inexperience when it came to parachuting, given the setting of strong winds and how he chose the uncontrollable parachute out of the ones provided by the authorities. But, in conclusion, the case remained a mystery and was later dropped by the FBI in 2016. Since then, the story has without a doubt become a timeless and infamous part of history for all.