Cooler Than You-
On November 24, 1971, the night before Thanksgiving, a gentleman boarded Northwest Orient flight 305 from Portland International to Seattle-Tacoma under the name Dan Cooper. It wasn’t a crowded flight, only 37 of its 94 seats filled, Cooper being the sole inhabitant of row 18. He would later be described as a slim, tan man with a narrow face a pronounced ears, standing about 6 feet tall, dressed in a black suit and tie with a pearl tack, wearing dark sunglasses and a felt homburg, a black raincoat and leather briefcase resting in his lap. Shortly after take off, he passed a note to stewardess Florence “Flo” Schaffner. Flo, a pert 23 year old, accustomed to receiving passes from single male travelers, paid the note little attention, and tucked it into her pocket. Later Cooper would grab her arm, pointing his briefcase towards her, insisting she read the note. Though Cooper would later reclaim the note, those amongst the crew who saw it would recall it read the following, in meticulous capital print: “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 went on the request $200,000 in non-sequential $20 bills and four parachutes- two front and two back, to be delivered to the plane upon arrival at Sea-Tac, and ended with the phrase “NO FUNNY BUSINESS.” After showing the note to the pilots, who radioed police, Schaffner returned to sit next to Cooper, who cracked his briefcase, revealing a series of wires and two red cylinders. Upon arrival in Seattle, Cooper would release all of the passengers, save for the five crew, and would eventually receive the parachutes and the money in full, some $2+ million in today’s funds, from a single Northwest employee. Schaffner would describe Cooper to FBI investigators as “gentlemanly,” offering to pay for his bourbon and insisting that the crew receive meals on the Sea-Tac runway. Some two hours after landing and following a complete refueling, Cooper and the crew, whom he insisted stay in the cockpit, once again returned to the air, headed, on Cooper’s orders, towards Mexico City. He directed that the plane be flown at an altitude below 10,00 feet, at a speed of under 150 knots, with the wing flaps angled at exactly 15 degrees. Some 40 minutes after take-off, over Oregon’s Lewis river, the crew would notice a marked change in pressure and a light indicating that the aft stairwell had been deployed. “D.B. Cooper” would never be seen again. He had jumped with his briefcase, coat and hat, and all four parachutes, as well as the canvas bag of money, weighing some 21 pounds. Cooper had clearly been well prepared for his escape, his requested speed and altitude would offer favorable conditions for a jump, and his deployment of the stairs seemed to have caused no further damage to the plane. Cooper’s request of four parachutes would baffle investigators- two would make sense, should one not deploy there would be a backup- but the additional set was the subject of much debate. Of all the theories presented my favorite is that the second set of chutes may lead police to believe that Cooper would make a hostage jump with him, which would prevent authorities from providing the hijacker with non-functioning chutes, should those end up being strapped to the innocent. Despite intensive searches of the areas in which cooper could have possibly landed, no body or trace of the jumper would ever be found. Some nine years later, in 1980, a boy out hiking would find $5,800 worth of heavily decayed twenty dollar bills that were proven to be amongst those provided to Cooper, but his would be the most evidence ever recovered in the case. After investigating over one hundred suspects, some of whom claimed to have been the daredevil himself, the case of D.B. Cooper’s legendary skyjacking remains unsolved.