The real-life mystery of D.B. Cooper, airplane hijacker
Launching on Netflix on 13 July, D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?! is a new limited series documentary series that explores the 'greatest unsolved crime in FBI history'.
The series looks at the 50-year quest to find the mysterious man who hijacked a Northwest Airlines passenger jet in November 1971 and escaped with $200,000, never to be seen again. Five decades. Few clues. Too many suspects. The identity of skyjacker D.B. Cooper remains one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century.
Read more: Everything new on Netflix in July
For the uninitiated, here’s everything you need to know about the true tale of D.B. Cooper’s legendary heist.
Who was D.B. Cooper?
D.B. Cooper is an unknown male who on November 24, 1971, successfully hijacked a Boeing 727 plane travelling between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.
Checking onto the flight under the name Dan Cooper, the man travelled smartly dressed, and only with a briefcase.
Witnesses state he was a heavy smoker and ordered a bourbon and soda once seated.
Before the half-hour flight even took off, Cooper handed a clip of paper to flight attendant Florence Schaffner.
Schaffner initially dismissed the note, thinking Cooper was a businessman attempting to give her his phone number, and threw it in her purse.
He then told her: “Miss you better look at that note, I have a bomb.”
The contents of the note have never been revealed, though some who claim to have seen it state the phrase “no funny business” was used.
Instructing Schaffner to sit next to him, Cooper showed her the bomb in the briefcase, which she later described as eight cylinders bound by wire.
Watch: Who is D.B. Cooper: Who is the Mystery Man?
He then made her transcribe a list of demands to give to the pilot - $200,000 in cash, four parachutes, and a fuel truck to refuel the plane ready upon landing.
Another attendant, 22-year-old Tina Mucklow, was instructed to stay with him for the duration.
Arriving at Seattle-Tacoma airport, Cooper allowed the passengers off the plane, who remained none-the-wiser about what was going on.
Once his demands were met, the plane took off again, heading towards Reno, Nevada.
Read more: New Evidence May Hold Key Clue in Identifying D.B. Cooper, Investigative Team Says
Shortly after take-off, Cooper took the money, parachutes and bomb, lowered the back stairs, and jumped out.
His last known location was somewhere around southern Washington and, as far as we know, was never seen again.
What did D.B. Cooper look like?
Cooper was described by police as a smartly dressed man in his mid-forties.
The FBI news bulletin describes him as olive-skinned or of Latin appearance, with no defining accent.
They added they believed he may have been from the Midwest.
At the time of the hijack, he was wearing a black suit with a white shirt, brown shoes, and a clip-on tie that he removed before jumping from the airplane.
After handing his note to the flight attendant and showing her the bomb in his briefcase, he put on dark, wraparound sunglasses.
The police sketch shows him as slender with a defining jawline, and a slicked hairstyle.
He smoked Raleigh filter-tip cigarettes on the flight.
What happened to D.B. Cooper?
The stunt resulted in a 50-year manhunt to recover Cooper’s body, or to find out his identity, but to this day he has evaded capture.
Despite checking in as Dan Cooper, a misprint in a local news report named him as D.B. Cooper, after one of the initial suspects who was quickly ruled out.
However, the name stuck and he’s been referred to by that moniker ever since.
Read More: FBI closes books on legendary D.B. Cooper skyjacking of 1971
It’s believed he did not survive the fall despite the parachutes, considering his attire at the time of the incident and the bad weather at the time of the jump.
The police later distributed the serial numbers of the 10,000 $20 bills they handed to him in an attempt to trace them.
In 1980, a young boy found a rotting package containing $5,800 on the beach, which matched the ransom money serial numbers. The rest have never been located.
He remains one of the most mysterious criminals in American history, with this seemingly being his one and only high-stakes heist.
Who are the suspects?
In the months following the incident, the FBI interviewed more than 800 people in connection with the incident.
One of the prime suspects is Richard McCoy, who conducted a similar heist five months later, that time demanding $500,000.
He died in a shootout with police after escaping jail in 1974, and never confessed to being D.B. Cooper.
In 1995, Army veteran Duane Weber reportedly confessed to being Cooper on his deathbed, but there was no evidence to corroborate this.
A third suspect, Sheridan Peterson, died at the age of 94 in January 2021, again never confessing to being Cooper.
Peterson was an Army vet and experienced ‘smokejumper’ - a specially-trained firefighter who is sent in via parachute, which would explain his ability to survive.
D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?! is streaming on Netflix now. Watch a trailer below.