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Aviation History Month Day 24 - 24th of November 1971

Aviation history is filled with famous aviators that disappeared during a flight, Emilia Earhart & Antoine de Saint-Exupéry to name two.

However, there is also an (in)famous passenger that disappeared during a flight on this day in 1971. According to his ticket, his name was Dan Cooper, he is more commonly known as D.B. Cooper. The Hijacker of Northwest Orient Flight 305.

The hijacked B0eing 727, N467US on the ramp at Seattle-Tacoma Airport (from public domain)

On this Wednesday afternoon, exactly 50 years ago to date, a passenger named D. Cooper purchased a ticket for the Portland (Oregon) to Seattle (Washington) flight of Northwest Orient that afternoon. Before take-off, Cooper ordered a Bourbon and Soda from the cabin crew. The Boeing 727-51 (c/n 18803) departed on schedule with 43 souls on board, 6 crew, and 37 passengers for a 30-minute flight.

Shortly after takeoff one of the flight attendants was given a note by Cooper with stated that he was carrying a bomb and wanted her to sit next to him. Shocked and possibly scared the cabin attendant sat next to Cooper. He showed her the contents of his briefcase, Red-colored sticks, and wires. She wrote a note, dictated by Cooper, which she had to go and give to the Captain. Shortly after, she was told to bring the note to the Captain, it stated that the flight was hijacked and that he demanded $200,000 (in $20 bills) a8nd 4 parachutes. That is ~$1,365,871.60 in current day Dollars!

FBI Picture of the B727-51 (N467US) at Reno Nevada

The flight continued to Seattle and once landed Cooper released 36 passengers in exchange for the money and parachutes. With the demands of the hijacker met, the aircraft took off again (at 19.40h) and set course for Mexico City as ordered by Cooper. Followed by two Convair F-106 Delta Dart fighter jets from McChord Air Force Base

On route to Reno (Nevada), for a fuel stop, Cooper ordered the remaining flight attendant to the flight deck and ordered her not to leave the flight deck until after landing at Reno. 20 minutes after takeoff the warning light came on indicating the ventral stairs had been activated, At 20.13 the aircraft pitched down suddenly without any crew input, the crew had to retrim the aircraft to remain in level flight and at the assigned altitude. 2 hours later, at 22.15, the B727 landed in Reno, without Cooper on board. Besides Cooper also the money and the Parachutes were missing.

From left to right; Captain William A. Scott, First Officer William Rataczack, Flight Attendant Tina Mucklow, and Second Officer Harold E. Anderson

This was the start of an extensive investigation by the FBI and mystery hunters, where did D.B. Cooper and the $200.000 go, and who was the man who portrayed to be D. Cooper?

In 1978, a hunter discovered a placard from a 727’s aft stairs near the known path of the hijacked 727. In 1980, a young boy found three deteriorated packets containing $5,800 in $20 bills along the banks of the Columbia River, downstream from Vancouver, Washington. The serial numbers matched the currency included in the ransom.

Dan Cooper has never been located. There have been a number of persons considered as suspects, however, it is possible that Cooper did not survive the jump from Flight 305.

In 2016 the FBI closed the case, however, the mystery remains!

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