Mystery Man – Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper’s story has constituted one of the greatest mysteries in the history of America’s FBI. The story is also one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in US history.

It begins on Wednesday the 24th of November 1971, a day before Thanksgiving in the USA, when a man in his mid-40s checks in at an airport in Portland, Oregon. He is clad in a neat business suit, a white shirt, a black tie, an overcoat, brown loafers, and a black briefcase. He books a one-way ticket to Seattle in Washington under the name Dan Cooper. Onboard the plane, his seat is number 18C near the back.

No sooner had he gotten comfortable than Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant, came by to take his drink order. He requests Bourbon, a type of American whiskey, and soda. As Florence was leaving, Dan Cooper beckons her to come back and handed her a note. Thinking it was one of those flirty passengers, Florence stuffed it in her pocket to read it later. Dan Cooper however insisted that she had to read the note immediately.

Florence the flight attendant opened the note and froze momentarily.

It read: Miss, My name is Dan Cooper. I have a bomb with me and I would like you to sit by me.

In compliance, Miss Schaffner sat by him. Dan Cooper was not bluffing. He opened his briefcase and in there lay twelve red rod-like items that had a ticking timer. He asks her to give the pilot the following instructions:

I will need $200,000 in $20 bills ($1,354,617.28 today) in a knapsack once we land in Seattle.
I will need four parachutes; two back parachutes and two front parachutes.
I will also need a refueling truck on standby once we land.
He concluded by saying that wasn’t funny stuff.

Florence hurriedly passed the information to the pilot and crew members who swung into the action of communicating with the control tower who in turn communicated with the authorities.

Upon landing in Seattle, all his wishes had been fulfilled and he released Florence together with 36 other passengers. He remained on board with few crew members who would enable him to get to the next destination, New Mexico.

Dan Cooper had few more new instructions to the pilot. That he would fly at an altitude of 10,000 ft above sea level instead of the plane’s 30,000ft at a speed of not more than 350km/hr. The pilot complied but asked him to allow him to make a stopover at Nevada, Reno for another refueling. Dan Cooper had no issue with that. They took off.

At precisely 2010hrs, all crew members who were in the cockpit heard a commotion at the rear of the plane where Dan Cooper was seated. The commotion and vibration sounded like the opening of the rear exit/entrance. D.B.Cooper, as he has become famously known, had jumped out of the plane into the pitch of the night. That was the beginning of his mysterious whereabouts to this day. The pilot and crew landed safely.

Official investigations on D.B.Cooper began with a rigorous search of him. The plane having been on autopilot the entire flight, investigators were able to identify the drop zone at exactly 2010hrs when D.B.Cooper jumped off. The drop zone constituted an area of 72.52 square kilometers. All state resources and machinery were deployed to the drop zone. The intensive search was in vain. The FBI reasoned that such a stunt could only be pulled by a previous or current member of the military. They zoned in and rigorously interrogated over 1000 people of the military airforce. None matched D.B.Cooper.

A year later in 1972, Richard Floyd Mccoy a pilot in the military mimicked D.B.Cooper’s hijack and robbery method. The only difference was that instead of $200,000 he asked for $500,000 ($3,386,543.21 today). The Mccoy heist and Cooper Heist were so similar that the authorities believed since D.B.Cooper was a media epithet and a non-existent human, he must be Richard Mccoy.

In both heists:
Both hijacked the planes and parachuted off.
Both jumped from the rear of a Boeing 727.
Both requested four parachutes.
Both were extraordinarily calm during the heist.
Both passed a note about having a bomb on board.
Both signed off by writing; no funny stuff.

The tie-breaker was when Florence Schaffner refuted Richard Mccoy to be D.B.Cooper since she had had a one-on-one encounter with him and she had seen his face. Richard Mccoy was imprisoned for 45 years where he escaped at some point and died in a shootout with the FBI.

Nine years later in 1980, young Brian Ingram was enjoying the company of his dad fishing on the shores at Tina Bay in Oregon. While playing, he dug out a stack of notes and informs his father. Your guess is as good as mine. Those notes were part of the exact ones that D.B. Cooper had made nine years ago as evidenced by the serial numbers traced by the authorities. They amounted to $5,800 ($39,283). Much more was missing. The discovery of these notes was inconsequential as it led to more questions than answers since they were located 27kms away from D.B.Cooper’s drop zone and had no way of leading to the location of Mr. Cooper.

Years later, another suspect emerged and threw a spanner into the works. His name was Duane Weber. He fit the physical description of D.B.Cooper. His wife kept recounting how he always had nightmares about having left fingerprints on a plane. He also had a constant knee ailment that he allegedly got from jumping out of an airplane. On his deathbed, he whispered to his wife that he was D.B.Cooper. There was however no solid proof for this from the authorities.

Finally, in 2007, a brother to one Kenneth Christiansen called the detectives and convinced them that his brother was D.B.Cooper. Kenneth Christiansen was a disgruntled flight attendant who felt aggrieved by the poor pay and working conditions. After the 1971 incident, he went ahead and bought a very large house in Washington and had a sudden lifestyle change. When Florence the flight attendant was asked to identify Christiansen, she said of the hundreds of people she had been asked to identify, none was as accurately resembling D.B.Cooper as was Christiansen. The resemblance of the two was uncanny. The authorities were however unconvinced.

The FBI in their intense investigations concluded that D.B.Cooper wasn’t a military man or an expert in sky diving based on the events leading to his jump.

“We originally thought Cooper was an experienced jumper, perhaps even a paratrooper…we concluded after a few years that this wasn’t true. No experienced parachutist would have jumped in the pitch-black night, in the rain, with a 200-mile-an-hour wind in his face, wearing loafers and a trench coat.” – FBI.

Dear D.B.Cooper,
Bro, in all humility and good faith, wherever you are, come out and explain to us how you have pulled such a stunt in so much so that 50 years later, no one knows of your whereabouts. I will provide asylum in a small village where I come from called Kibera.
Yours Truly.

The FBI closed this case in 2016 with a file 40ft (12meters) long. They are however open to listening to anyone with new evidence.

4 thoughts on “Mystery Man – Dan Cooper”

  1. Interesting
    Who becomes a legend on the eve of Thankgiving Cooper,and the fact that they are still looking for him since then is even intriguing please ……but the question is
    How much money did this guy steal just curious
    Nice piece keep winning Moses

    • Haha! Maureen, I think the guy must be dead by now if he was in his 40s in 1971.
      The amount of money he “stole” without violence was $200,000 the equivalent of $1,354,617.28 today.
      Thanks for stopping by!


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