On the afternoon of November 24, D.B. Cooper hijacks a Boeing 727 and parachutes out over southwestern Washington with $200,000 ($1,278,000 in 2021) and is never heard from again.
On Thanksgiving eve, November 24, 1971, a middle-aged man carrying a black attaché case approached the flight counter of Northwest Orient Airlines at Portland International Airport. He identified himself as “Dan Cooper” and used cash to purchase a one-way ticket on Flight 305, a 30-minute trip north to Seattle. Cooper boarded the aircraft, a Boeing 727-100 (FAA registration N467US), and took seat 18C and ordered a drink—bourbon and soda. Eyewitnesses described Cooper as being in his mid-40s, wearing a business suit with a black tie and white shirt.
Shortly after takeoff, Cooper handed a note to Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant situated nearest to him in a jump seat attached to the aft stair door. Schaffner, assuming the note contained a lonely businessman’s phone number, dropped it unopened into her purse. Cooper leaned toward her and whispered, “Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.”
Schaffner quietly asked to see the bomb. Cooper opened his briefcase long enough for her to glimpse eight red cylinders (“four on top of four”) attached to wires coated with red insulation, and a large cylindrical battery. After closing the briefcase, he stated his demands: $200,000 in “negotiable American currency”; four parachutes (two primary and two reserve); and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the aircraft upon arrival. Schaffner conveyed Cooper’s instructions to the pilots in the cockpit; when she returned, Cooper was wearing dark sunglasses.
FBI agents assembled the ransom money from several Seattle-area banks—10,000 unmarked 20-dollar bills, most with serial numbers beginning with the letter “L” indicating issuance by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and most from the 1963A or 1969 series —and made a microfilm photograph of each of them. Cooper rejected the military-issue parachutes offered by McChord AFB personnel, instead demanding civilian parachutes with manually operated ripcords. Seattle police obtained them from a local skydiving school.
At 5:24 p.m. PST, Cooper was informed that his demands had been met; and at 5:39 p.m., more than an hour after sunset, the aircraft landed at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Cooper instructed Scott to taxi the jet to an isolated, brightly lit section of the apron and close all window shades in the cabin to deter police snipers. Northwest Orient’s Seattle operations manager, Al Lee, approached the aircraft in street clothes (to avoid the possibility that Cooper might mistake his airline uniform for that of a police officer) and delivered the cash-filled knapsack and parachutes to Mucklow via the aft stairs. Once the delivery was completed, Cooper allowed all passengers, Schaffner, and senior flight attendant Alice Hancock to leave the plane.
Cooper outlined his flight plan to the cockpit crew: a southeast course toward Mexico City at the minimum airspeed possible without stalling the aircraft—approximately 100 knots (185 km/h; 115 mph)—at a maximum 10,000-foot (3,000 m) altitude. He further specified that the landing gear remain deployed in the takeoff/landing position, the wing flaps be lowered 15 degrees, and the cabin remain unpressurized.
First officer William J. Rataczak informed Cooper that the aircraft’s range was limited to approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) under the specified flight configuration, which meant that a second refueling would be necessary before entering Mexico. Cooper and the crew discussed options and agreed on Reno, Nevada, as the refueling stop. Cooper further directed that the aircraft take off with the rear exit door open and its staircase extended. Northwest’s home office objected, on grounds that it was unsafe to take off with the aft staircase deployed. Cooper countered that it was indeed safe, but he would not argue the point; he would lower it once they were airborne.
At approximately 7:40 p.m., the Boeing 727 took off with only Cooper, captain Scott, flight attendant Mucklow, first officer Rataczak, and flight engineer Harold E. Anderson on board. Two F-106 fighter aircraft from McChord Air Force Base followed behind the airliner, one above it and one below, out of Cooper’s view.
After takeoff, Cooper picked up his briefcase and told Mucklow to show him how to open the door to the aft staircase. He then told her to join the rest of the crew in the cockpit and remain there with the door closed. At approximately 8:00 p.m., a warning light flashed in the cockpit, indicating that the aft airstair apparatus had been activated. The pilots asked on the cabin intercom if Cooper needed assistance. Cooper picked up the cabin phone and replied, “No.” This was the last message heard from Cooper.
The crew soon noticed a subjective change of air pressure, indicating that the aft door was open. At approximately 8:13 p.m., the aircraft’s tail section sustained a sudden upward movement, large enough to require trimming to bring the plane back to level flight. At approximately 10:15 p.m., the 727 landed, with the aft airstair still deployed, at Reno Airport. FBI agents, state troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and Reno police surrounded the jet, as it had not yet been determined with certainty that Cooper was no longer aboard; but an armed search quickly confirmed his absence.
Details for this story were gleened from WikiPedia, Spokesman.com