Dan Cooper the skyjacker who has outsmarted the FBI for 50 years

On 24th November 1971, a man estimated to be in his mid-40s donning a classic business suit and brown shoes and a briefcase entered the portland airport where he purchased a one-way ticket with cash to Seattle, Washington DC. While confirming his flight ticket, the man provided his name as Dan Cooper.

He sat on a middle seat on the plane’s last row, row 18. He acted in a normal every passenger would act; he called a stewardess to give him a bourbon drink and a soda while smoking his cigarette calmly.

It was shortly after 3 pm when the flight was planning to take off that a flight attendant was passing by was handed over a note that said Miss, I have a bomb, and sit next to me by another stewardess.

Dan opened the briefcase, showed the stewardess the bomb, and explained how it would work, and he later looked out of the window. This was scary information as the flight had 42 people aboard, three pilots,3 flight attendants, and 36 passengers, including the hijacker.

Dan Cooper gave the stewardess a new note to take to the captain, which had his demands $200,000, estimated to value $1.3 million now and four parachutes, and set the timelines he wanted his demands met.

Cooper was irritable, and other passengers did not know what was happening; the stewardess was communicating with airplane staff over the intercom to ensure cooper’s demands were met.

The plane landed at Seattle airport and the stewardess who Cooper first approached alighted to collect the money and the parachutes. She delivered them to him without alerting other airport staff to safeguard other passengers’ lives.

On landing, the hijacker demanded a fuel tank so the plane could take off again, and he would get off the plane when the people on the aircraft were airborne. To control the situation, they pushed all other passengers to first-class seats.

When the Boeing set off for the second time, Cooper demanded they take off with the plane stairs lowered. It took convincing from the pilots that he allowed them to take off with a plane door open.

Only one stewardess was on the back of the plane, and the hijacker later forced her to show him how to lower the stairs. Copper later demanded that she go back to the cockpit to be with other flight attendants to not watch him while he lowered the stairs.

The flight later landed in Reno, Nevada, and Cooper was not on it; the FBI was already waiting for the plane with the hope of arresting the hijacker. It is the only hijacking with no victim aboard. Cooper has never been identified or arrested, and his identity is still on speculation .50 years later, the FBI is still hunting for him.


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Dan Cooper’s criminal activity led to the birth of strict and serious scrutiny of passengers during flights.