Mystery of DB Cooper endures half century later


These composite sketches depict infamous highjacker D.B. Cooper, who was never captured or positively identified.

Edward Macdonald ’23

One of America’s greatest legends is that of D. B. Cooper (actual pseudonym: Dan Cooper), a man who boarded a Boeing 727 in Portland headed to Seattle and threatened to blow up the plane unless he was given $200,000 in ransom (equivalent to $1.3 million today).But what separates D. B. Cooper from other airplane jackers is that he got away with it. Nov. 24, 2021 will be the 50th anniversary of the hijacking and Cooper has still remained anonymous. Despite his anonymity, there are clues as to his identity and origin, which have been curated by an avid fan

base. There are two big clues as to his identity. First is that he is likely to be Canadian. During the time of the hijacking, there was a popular Canadian comic book called Les Aventures de Dan Cooper, which featured Dan Cooper, a test pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Additionally, one of the covers featured Dan Cooper parachuting, which may have inspired the hijacking. Furthermore, when Cooper demanded the ransom, he specified that it must be U.S. dollars, leading many to believe that he was not American.

The second is that Cooper was involved in the production of planes. Examinations of a clip on tie that he left on the plane show exotic metal particles, implying that he was some sort of engineer who worked on airplanes.

Additionally, he would have needed to know the kind of plane he was boarding, and that it had a staircase in the back of the plane that could be lowered during the flight, something that a civilian was unlikely to know. “The key takeaway is that it hasn’t happened since, and that’s why there’s so much lore surrounding it, because it’s not a common occurrence,” said Jeff Isola ’98, history teacher. The D.B. Cooper hijacking marked the end of security free plane trips in

the United States. The Sky Marshal Program was implemented one year earlier.

However, after the Cooper incident and multiple unsuccessful copycat hijackings, new regulations were put into place by the Federal Aviation Administration to prevent such occurrences.

First, the FAA mandated that all Boeing 727s have a device called a Cooper Vane, which prevented the stairs in the back of the plane from being lowered during the flight. Additionally, peepholes were mandated on the cockpit doors of all commercial aircrafts.

This allowed pilots to view the passengers without opening the door. Finally, in 1973 the FAA required airlines to search the bags of all passengers.

In November 1976, a Portland grand jury indicted John Doe/Dan Cooper/D.B. Cooper in absentia (a trial in which the defendant is not present or even known) on charges of air piracy and violation of the Hobbs Act. If Cooper is ever found or turns himself in, he will be prosecuted.

The FBI officially closed the investigation after 45 years in 2016. However, amateur sleuths still search for Cooper in the hopes of uncovering the truth.