Man who vanished in the sky

Hello, friends! 24th November, 1971. In America, a Northwest Orient Airlines flight took off from Portland. This is a small, 30-minute flight to Seattle nearby. Not many passengers were on this flight. It was carrying only 36 passengers  and 6 crew members.But these passengers were unaware that a hijacker was present on this flight. A man named D.B. Cooper. The hijacker looked like a normal businessman. He was dressed like that. A business suit, white shirt, and black pants. He must have been in his mid-forties. He intentionally sat in the last row of the plane. Seat number 18E.

As soon as the plane took off, this guy introduced himself to an air hostess. He mentions his name, Dan Cooper. The hostess’s name was Florence Schaffner. And with a big smile, he handed a note to the air hostess. Schaffner was a 23-year-old woman who thought that this man was trying to flirt with her. So, she took that note and kept it with her without reading it. Seeing this, Cooper told her, that she should read the note. He said, that he had a b0mb. When Schaffner opened the note, it was clearly written in neat handwriting, “Miss, I have a b0mb in my briefcase and I want you to sit by me.” Schaffner quietly sat next to Cooper, but she still couldn’t believe that he actually had a bomb. So Cooper opened his suitcase to show it to her. Some red cylinders, wires, and a big cylindrical battery were in the suitcase. There was no doubt that it was a b0mb. Cooper made his demands on the air hostess. He wanted $200,000 by 5 pm that evening. That too in cash. He wanted all that cash in a bag along with 2 parachutes in the back  and 2 parachutes in the front. When they eventually landed, he wanted to have a fuel truck ready to refuel the plane. He warned her against trying anything strange threatening to blow up the plane otherwise.

The other passengers on the plane were unaware of this and Air Hostess Schaffner didn’t want the other passengers to know. She quietly went into the cockpit and showed Cooper’s note to the pilots. Another Air Hostess, Tina Mucklow was informed about this and she sat beside Cooper. With the help of these two air hostesses, the contact between the plane’s cockpit  and Cooper could be maintained. The pilots informed the air traffic controller and soon the news reached the president of the airline, Donald Nairob. He was the decision-maker and he made an interesting decision. He told the staff to ensure full compliance with Cooper’s demands. To fulfil all demands made by this hijacker. After coordinating with the FBI, he talked to a Seattle bank to arrange the money. The bank had a huge bundle of  money for such emergencies. But there was something special about this bundle of money. We will talk about it later in the video. But you must be wondering why did the airline’s president decide to cooperate with the hijackers? The reason behind this was Reputation. The airline’s president didn’t want the news of the hijack to spread all over the world leading to heavy losses for his company. So to keep this issue under wraps, he was willing to fulfil the demands of the hijackers. The only problem was that they needed some time to arrange the money but this flight was only supposed to be half an hour long.

So the pilots were told that instead of landing the plane, they were to keep circling around Seattle until they could arrange the money on the ground. This half-hour flight gradually became 3 hours long. Passengers were still unaware of what was happening. Flight pilots announced that they were facing minor technical difficulties, causing the delay. The other passengers believed this. Finally, this flight landed at  Seattle’s airport at 5.46 pm. According to Cooper’s instructions, the plane was parked far from the main terminal building.  One airline representative approached the plane with a bag of money and the parachutes. When the 4 parachutes and the bag of money were given to Cooper, he allowed the passengers and flight attendants to leave the plane except Tina Mucklow.

After this, according to the plan, the plane was refuelled and it takes off again. This time, only the pilots were on the plane along with Cooper and Tina. Cooper started giving instructions to the pilots again. For the destination of the flight, the speed of the flight, down to the very angle. He directs them to fly the plane towards Mexico City. At an altitude of 10,000 feet in the air. With the wings positioned at 15°. As for the plane’s speed he wanted to fly as slow as possible. The pilots told Cooper that flying with these configurations, would make it difficult for them to reach Mexico City. Because there wasn’t enough fuel in the plane. But Cooper was not worried about it. Cooper told them to fly as he directed. Friends, what happened next is completely unbelievable.

No less than a film’s story. Cooper told Tina to go to the cockpit and lock the door. Cooper was the only person outside the cockpit. He took out his parachutes and prepared to dive. A few minutes later, a warning light flashed in the cockpit, indicating that the rear staircase had been deployed. This was a unique feature in these planes back then, Boeing 727 planes had an aft staircase at the back. In the photos, you can see how the stairs are deployed from the back. Cooper deployed these stairs and jumped out with the parachutes and the money. The pilots and the air hostesses did not see this happening because they were locked in the cockpit and back then there was no hole on the cockpit door through which they could see outside. But at 8.13 pm, pilots noticed that the back part of the plane suddenly tilted upwards and the pilots had to recalibrate and re-level the plane. After this, the pilots flew the plane to Nevada,  and landed in the city of Reno. The police were informed and they investigated the plane.

But they didn’t find any trace of Cooper. The only things the police could find was a tie with a clip on it, and some torn parts of the parachutes, which Cooper had used to cover the bag of money. Apart from this, they found some personal items belonging to Cooper, like the cigarettes he was smoking on the plane. Smoking was allowed in aeroplanes back then. Investigators investigated everything thoroughly and they found 66 unidentified fingerprints. Fingerprints belonging to neither the crew members nor to the other passengers. But the suitcase that had the b*mb, the bag of money, and the parachutes, were all missing, like Cooper. From that day, the FBI started its investigation to find Cooper, but no trace of Cooper was found. This investigation went on for 45 years. It was officially closed in 2016, but the answers to many questions are still unanswered. This is the only hijack in history that no one has been able to solve. One of the greatest mysteries for the FBI. Who was Cooper? What happened to him? Was the money ever recovered by the police? There are too many questions. Let’s try to unravel this mystery. 2 things are very interesting about this incident. First, during this hijack, no other passenger knew that their plane was hijacked. Neither was anyone killed nor was anyone injured in this hijack. Many people claim this was due to Tina Mucklow.

They call her the hero of this hijack because she was the one to ensure that Cooper remained calm throughout the flight, his demands were met, and no panic situation could be created which could cause a ruckus or get someone injured. The co-pilot of the plane Rataczak later said, “She was so calm and cool and collected, I could not think of anyone that would have been better  to have sitting next to someone  who would do a criminal act like [this].” The second interesting thing was the name DB Cooper. As I told you in the beginning, that guy’s name was actually Dan Cooper. But today, most people call this the Mystery of DB Cooper. How did Dan become DB? This is because of a mistake by a news reporter. Back then, there was a reporter named James Long who was late for meeting his deadline. So, in a hurry, while talking to his police source, he misheard the name. The police said that the hijacker’s name was Dan Cooper but this reporter heard DB Cooper and used this name for his news report. This report was picked up by other journalists while talking about this news  in their newspapers and channels started using the name DB Cooper. [DB Cooper] This is how the name of the hijacker changed. In psychology, this phenomenon is known as Anchoring,  Anchoring is a cognitive bias that states, humans rely too heavily on the first piece of information.  The first piece of news you hear about any breaking news, you have the tendency to believe it. In 2013, a joke theory related to this was published, Brandolini’s Law, also called the Bullshit Asymmetry Principle. It states that correcting this anchoring effect can be very difficult.

“The amount of energy needed to correct bullshit, is of much higher magnitude than to produce it.” In broad terms, spreading lies is relatively easier, but having people believe the truth to correct that lie, is much more difficult. But in the case of Cooper, it wasn’t a huge mistake. Only the name was wrong. Anyway, a hijacker shouldn’t be expected to use his real name. The FBI’s initial investigations showed that when Cooper jumped out of the plane, Cooper had strapped the cash around him. The cash weighed around 10 kilos. Cooper used two parachutes to jump, one strapped in front and one behind. The police had an idea of the area in which Cooper jumped. He jumped in the southwest area of Washington State. There were pine forests, lakes, and canyons in the area, bears lived there. So, in the beginning, the investigators said that there was no chance of Cooper surviving. Jumping from a height of 10,000 feet and in pitch darkness. It was completely dark at 8 in the night. Second, the clothes that Cooper was wearing were not at all suitable for jumping. Jumping in pants and shirt when it was raining outside. With heavy, black clouds in the sky, at the height of 5,000 feet. It means that Cooper could not see anything while falling. On top of that, the wind speed was important too. It was estimated that when Cooper jumped, he had to be travelling at the speed of 320 km per hour.

The United States Parachute Association believed that there was another problem on top of all this, the cold water. In November, the temperature  in this American region is very low. If Cooper had fallen into a lake, it would have been almost impossible to escape from there. In such cold water, hypothermia  would have set in within a few minutes. And on top of that, the weight strapped on Cooper, would have made it more difficult to swim. But despite all these, some such reasons surfaced later, which forced us to think that perhaps Cooper survived this jump. The reason for this was that after Cooper’s incident, there were many similar incidents. When Cooper’s hijacking made news all across the country, more hijackers thought of using the same tactics. At least 5 people did the same copycat hijackings. And all these 5 people survived after jumping off the plane. One of them was Martin McNally, who hijacked a plane on 24th June 1972. He used the exact same modus operandi. He demanded a sum of $500,000.

When the plane took off, they used a parachute to jump off like Cooper. In McNally’s case, the speed of the plane  was around 400-500 km per hour when he jumped. This was twice the speed of Cooper’s dive. But still, McNally survived his jump using only a reserve parachute. Another similar hijack was done in January 1972 by Richard Lapoint. He wore similar clothes in January, jumped and landed safely in the snow. It’s irrelevant that these two hijackers were later caught by the police. That’s how we know their stories. But the FBI thought that if these people could jump in conditions that were worse than when Cooper jumped, and they managed to survive, then it was possible that DB Cooper survived that night. Especially if you consider that when Tina Mucklow gave the parachutes to Cooper, there were instructions on how to use them. But Cooper told Tina that she didn’t need to read the instructions. He knew how to use them. So now, since the FBI started assuming that Cooper could be alive, their next task was to search the place where he had jumped. Actually, the police had started searching  those jungles the day after the hijack. The police were looking for a body, a torn piece of the parachutes, or a $20 bill. At the beginning of the video, I told you that the money given to Cooper was special. The special thing was that there were $20 bills. 10,000 notes of $20, $200,000 in total. And the serial numbers of these notes were noted down by the bank. The FBI spread the list of serial numbers throughout the country. From banks to casinos, everyone was told to inform the FBI  if they got the notes of those serial numbers.

But it was becoming more and more  difficult for the investigators to find Copper because where could the search area be drawn? There were many variables. What was the wind speed while the plane was flying? How dark was it? What was the exact location of the plane when Cooper jumped? After jumping, at what height did Cooper deploy his parachutes? And in which directions could the parachutes have gone? The investigators’ best estimate was that it would have landed somewhere  near Lake Merwin in Washington State. The FBI ran a practical experiment. If we fly the same aircraft with the same configurations and push out a 91 kg sled through the stairs, based on where the sled landed, we can get a better idea of the area where Cooper could have landed. Due to this, door-to-door searches were conducted in this area. At the local farmhouses, the police used to knock on every door to investigate and to ask people. Petrol boats were running on Lake Mervin and Lake Yale. One company used their submarine for the search. 200 ft under the Lake Mervin, they continued to look for him. They wanted to find either the money,  a piece of the parachute or a body but they couldn’t find anything. Eventually, the investigators published the serial numbers of the notes in the local newspaper. They ran the news that the first person  to find a note from those serial numbers would be awarded $1,000. This offer remained for 3 years but not a single note could be found. Now let’s skip to 1979. 8 years since the hijack. Suddenly a pilot contacted the FBI. His name was Tom Bohan  and he worked for Continental Airlines. The night of the hijack, 4 minutes behind Cooper’s aircraft  and 4,000 feet above, another aircraft was flying, which was being flown by Tom. Tom recalled the storm that night, and said that he had never seen  such a storm in his entire career. He said that the FBI’s calculations regarding Cooper’s drop zone were off by 80°. Since he was on a plane that night, he had a better idea of where Copper landed.

He told the FBI that they should be searching near the drainage area of the Washougal River. A few months later, Tom’s suspicion was proven right. An 8-year-old boy found some $20 notes lying on the bank of the Columbia River. All of these were $20 bills, and some of them were still in bundles held together with rubber bands. “Hijacker DB Cooper, the first break in the only unsolved  airplane hijacking in United States history  came on a Columbia River beach. An 8-year-old boy dug up the shreds of $3,000 on Sunday!” As soon as the police checked the serial numbers of these notes, it was immediately confirmed that this was the same money from years ago, that was given to Cooper. Another search was conducted around this place but they couldn’t find all of the money. In total, they could find only $5,800. And Tom’s hypothesis of Cooper landing in this area was proved correct.

Tom had said that Cooper must have  landed somewhere near the Washougal river. And the money found was downstream of the same river. After this, the FBI searched the area in the hope of finding a body or some pieces of the parachute. But they couldn’t find anything. FBI agent Richard Tosaw believed that Cooper must have drowned in the  cold water of the river that night. An interesting fact here was that the 8-year-old boy who found these notes was given some portions of these notes as a reward. And in 2008, when the boy grew up, he sold 15 notes in an online auction. And in return for these $20 notes, he got $37,000.

Because Cooper’s case was so popular all over the world people were ready to pay such a high amount for these notes. Another big question that arises is that regardless of what happened to Cooper  after jumping from the plane, who was Cooper actually? By the way, if you like flight mystery videos and you want to listen to them in audio form, then I have some good suggestions for audiobooks on Kuku FM. One is on MS 370 Biggest Mystery in Aviation. And the other audiobook is  The Impossible Rescue. It’s the most fun to listen to them when you are doing some chores at home or going for a walk outside. Or before going to sleep at night. Because you can rest your eyes as it is only for listening. If you don’t know, Kuku FM is an amazing platform for audio-learning where you will find many such audiobooks on almost every topic. Whether it’s history, mystery, politics or fiction. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, you can find the link in the description below and you will also get a special  50% off coupon code in the link. You can go and check it out. Now let’s get back to the topic. We must have some background information about where this guy came from and what was his identity was. The FBI did not have much to help answer this question. There was a tie and tie clip left behind by Cooper. That tie clip was actually golden and in that tie clip, they found some specific microscopic particles. In March 2009, a research team started researching these microscopic particles using new technology.

There was a palaeontologist on this team, a scientific illustrator, and a metallurgist.  They used electron microscopy to examine these particles. Some portions of the tie-clip were of unalloyed titanium, with traces of aluminium, and titanium antimony alloy. Their findings suggested that Cooper worked in a chemical  or metal manufacturing plant or in an aeronautical engineering company. Maybe he worked in Boeing itself. Because the unalloyed titanium that was used in the tie-clip, back then, it was used in aircraft fabrication facilities. “The Periodical Table of clue, say scientists, suggest that Cooper had access to a manufacturing company that made airplanes. Like the one he jumped from. Perhaps a company with a connection to Boeing.” In the first year of the investigation, FBI talked to the passengers and flight crew to make a sketch of Cooper’s face. What did Cooper look like? The first sketch created by 28th November 1971, looked like this. But Air Hostess Schaffer and many witnesses said that it was not an accurate representation. It took another year to make a new sketch. This wasn’t very accurate either. And on 2nd January 1973, the FBI made their third and final sketch of Cooper. After seeing this new sketch, an air hostess said that this photo was accurate.

Looking at this drawing, it can be easily said that Cooper looked like this. Dan Cooper’s real face and his possible profession was revealed to the world. Many people started making new theories about his identity. About who Cooper was. Larry Carr, who had led the  investigative team from 2006-2009 believed that Cooper was an aircraft cargo loader in the Air Force. Because cargo loaders were given basic jump training. How to wear parachutes, how to deploy parachutes. And even on the working of the plane, how to deploy the stairs in the plane, they know all this. Based on these descriptions, the FBI released a list of more than 800 suspects. 800 people, any of them could be DB Cooper.

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