DB Cooper: America’s Most Notorious Skyjacker

An FBI artist sketch of the man who called himself "Dan Cooper" and hijacked a flight between Portland, Ore., and Seattle in 1971 (Image via U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation)
An FBI artist sketch of the man who called himself “Dan Cooper” and hijacked a flight between Portland, Ore., and Seattle in 1971 (Image via U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation)

Welcome to the Trivia Minute, your daily dose of history, facts and tidbits from TriviaPeople.com … I’m Marcus Michelson.

On this date in 1971, a man using the alias Dan Cooper hijacked a Northwest Orient Airlines flight between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.

Here are some things you may not have known about DB Cooper.

The day before Thanksgiving 1971, a man identifying himself as Dan Cooper purchased a one-way ticket on an afternoon flight from Portland to Seattle. The ticket cost $20.

In the air, Cooper passed a note to a flight attendant, who figured he was passing her his phone number. She put the note, unread, into her purse. Cooper then told her to look at the note and told her he had a bomb.

Cooper demanded $200,000 in “negotiable American currency,” four parachutes and that the plane be refueled upon landing in Seattle. The plane circled Seattle for two hours while authorities fulfilled the demands.

Once the demands were met, the plane landed and moved to a well-lit, but remote part of the tarmac. A Northwest Orient employee delivered the cash and parachutes. About two hours after it landed, the plane took off again with an intended destination of Mexico City. Cooper demanded that the plane be flown at its minimum speed and at no more than 10,000 feet. He also wanted the landing gear down, the wing flaps lowered 15 degrees and the cabin unpressurized. He also had the flight crew lock themselves in the cockpit.

Twenty minutes after, Cooper opened the aft staircase. At 8:13 p.m., It’s believed he jumped from the plane into the dark, rainy wilderness of Southwest Washington state near the Lewis River.

The FBI and sheriff’s deputies searched the area around Lake Merwin near Mount St. Helens. The searches came up empty. The search continued after the spring thaw, but once again, nothing was found.

In 1978, a deer hunter found a instruction placard for lowering the stairs on a 727 about 13 miles east of Castle Rock, Washington. Two years later an eight-year-old boy found three bundles of the ransom cash along the Columbia River nine miles downstream of Vancouver, Washington. No further evidence has been found. From the start, FBI investigators have assumed that Cooper did not survive the jump. The conditions were so bad that if the jump didn’t kill him, he wouldn’t have survived long on the ground without assistance.

Our question, Northwest Orient Airlines is now known as what?


Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.

It’s unofficially National Sardines Day.

It’s the birthday of artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, who was born in 1864; mobster Lucky Luciano, who was born in 1897; and basketball legend Oscar Robertson, who is 78.

We featured 1971 on last Friday’s episode, so we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1973, the top song in the U.S. was “Photograph” by Ringo Starr.

The No. 1 movie was “Robin Hood,” while the novel “The Honorary Consul” by Graham Greene topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.


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