Little Bits of History

Jump to Nowhere

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 24, 2013
Police sketch of D.B. Cooper

Police sketch of D.B. Cooper

November 24, 1971: Dan or D.B. Cooper makes a parachute jump and is never seen again. Cooper boarded Northwest Orient (now part of Delta) Flight 305 in Portland, Oregon. He was described as mid-40s, 5 feet, 10 inches to 6 feet tall and was dressed in a black suit with a white shirt. He sat in seat 18C and soon after takeoff handed a note to Florence Schaffner, a stewardess. She slipped the note in her pocket and the man told her to read it. It said, “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 and four parachutes and listed instructions for landing at Seattle, Washington.

The pilot was told about the problem and called radio control. The FBI and airline president Donald Nyrop told pilot William Scott to make sure the bomb was real. Cooper showed Florence the contents of his briefcase. The plane was in a holding pattern over Puget Sound while the money, all in twenties, was gathered. The FBI ran all the bills through a Recordak device, taking pictures of all the serial numbers. The exact parachutes Cooper requested could not be found immediately. A skydiving school provided the chutes and at 5:24 PM Scott was radioed and told to land.

With dimmed cabin lights, the plane taxied to a remote spot. An employee drove out with the ransom and parachutes and all 36 passengers were immediately released. Only the pilot, the first officer, the flight engineer, and one stewardess remained on board. The plane was refueled and the route for escape was discussed. Cooper wanted to fly to Mexico City, but only at a low speed and altitude. When told it was not aerodynamically feasible, the new destination was Reno, Nevada.

The cabin was to remain unpressurized. They took off around 7:40 PM and the stewardess was directed to go to the cockpit. Lights flashed indicating a door was being opened. Cooper stepped into the night amidst a thunderstorm and was never seen again. Because of the storm, the F-106 jet fighters trailing the plane did not see Cooper exit. Intense searches of the area proved fruitless. Cooper, the parachutes, and the money were gone. The FBI does not believe he survived the jump. On February 10, 1980, 8-year-old Brian Ingram found $5,880 in banded bills on the banks of the Columbia River, northwest of Vancouver, Washington. The serial numbers matched the ransom money.

“Either he’s hung up in the branches of a tree somewhere and we won’t find him until next deer season, or he’s home watching us on television, laughing his fool bead off.” – Woodland Police Chief Joe May

“We’re either looking for a parachute or a hole in the ground,” – Clark County Undersheriff Tom McDowell.

“I was scared to death and pretty nervous, but I do remember seeing a red cylinder in the suitcase.” – Florence Schaffner

“All he knew was he was being taken to Reno (for refueling) on the first leg of a flight to Mexico.” – William Scott

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The FBI continues to study the case and has amassed evidence filling 60 volumes. They have processed over a thousand “serious suspects” and most of those have been definitively ruled out. Some of the best suspects are as follows: Kenneth Christiansen who died with a hint that he might be DB Cooper, but no actual proof. William Gossett who confessed to three of his sons before he died is also a candidate. Richard Floyd McCoy, Jr. staged a copycat hijacking in 1972. He was killed by the FBI and there are some who believe the two men are the same. Duane Weber was in and out of prison for burglary and forgery. On his deathbed, he confessed to being Dan Cooper. His fingerprints did not match any found on the plane. John List murdered his family 15 days before the hijacking and his name has been linked to the latter. When captured, he admitted killing his family but denied being Cooper. Barbara Dayton, nee Bobby Dayton, claimed to be Cooper two years after sex reassignment surgery in order to “get back” at the airlines. Ted Mayfield and Jack Coffelt were both ex-convicts but neither were found to be able to substantiate claims to Cooper. Lynn Doyle Cooper’s niece thought her uncle might have been Dan, but this has not been proven.

Also on this day: Little Jamie – in 1993, James Bulger’s murderers are found guilty.
Wilt the Stilt – In 1960, the basketball player garnered another record.
Alone? – In 1963 Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald.

One Response

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  1. hairballexpress said, on November 24, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Dude… I’ll love your posts……

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