SEATTLE (AP) Thirty years have passed since D.B. Cooper jumped from a hijacked, Seattle-bound jetliner with $200,000 in ransom money and disappeared into a remote forest.
With the 30th anniversary of the crime coming on today, Cooper’s escapade remains the only unsolved skyjacking in the United States. The FBI has received thousands of tips, but investigators have nothing to go on no suspect, no leads, nothing to prove who Cooper was or where he went.
“He’s our Jesse James and Billy the Kid,” said Jerry Thomas, a retired Army infantryman who has searched the backwoods of southwestern Washington for any trace of Cooper.
Many who have studied Cooper’s actions on Thanksgiving Eve in 1971 are certain he died trying to escape. They have reason to believe that, too. He exited the plane in heavy rain and jumped over a dense forest of pine and Douglas fir. He was dressed in a suit and loafers and one of the two parachutes he used was defective.
But his story continues to fascinate.
On Nov. 24, 1971, a thin man in his 40s calling himself Dan Cooper showed up at the Northwest Orient Airlines ticket counter at Portland International Airport in Oregon. He paid $20 in cash for a one-way flight to Seattle departing at 4:35 p.m. He boarded the plane and took a seat near the back, where he had the row to himself.
Soon after takeoff, Cooper handed a note to a stewardess and said he had a bomb on board. He let her peek into his briefcase at wires and red sticks that looked like explosives. He then demanded $200,000, four parachutes and “no funny stuff.” At 5:40 p.m., the plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and authorities met his demands.
He ordered the plane back into the air and demanded that it fly toward Mexico through Reno at no more than 10,000 feet. He later jumped, and hasn’t been seen or heard from since.
He’s beaten the best crime fighters in the country, earning him folk hero status among some. Today, the tiny town of Ariel, Wash., will throw a party for Cooper for the 27th straight year at a bar called the Ariel Store.
Along with earning him admirers, his case inspired some copycat attempts and prompted new airport security measures nationwide.
After years of investigating the case, all authorities know about Cooper is that he smoked Raleigh cigarettes, drank whiskey and was familiar with aerodynamics.
Only some of his ransom money a bundle of $20 bills has turned up. A child digging in a sand bar on the north bank of the Columbia River west of Vancouver found the money in 1980. The serial numbers had been recorded by the FBI.
“The fact that it’s the only unsolved hijacking keeps it high profile,” said FBI agent Ralph Hope of Seattle, the latest agent in charge of the case. “It will remain that way until we know the individual could not be alive.”