UNSOLVED: The D.B. Cooper Skyjacking

March 26, 2018

The mysterious plane hijacking by an even more mysterious man in an event known as ‘NORJAK’ has haunted the U.S.A. (and the FBI) for decades now.

A seemingly normal business-class man dressed well with a suit, black tie, loafers, and a briefcase walked up to an airport desk in Portland, Oregon, and bought a plane ticket in cash to Seattle, Washington.

When the calm and collected man sat down on the plane, he ordered a bourbon and soda. He then called a flight attendant over, and the nearly 50-year-old mystery of November 24th, 1971, began.

Around 3:00 p.m., a flight attendant sat next to him per his request, as he claimed to have a bomb in his briefcase. He proceeded to show her the so-called bomb. The attendant was scared, but responded calmly and continued to relay messages between the man and the pilot. The man then made his demands.

He wanted 4 parachutes and $20,000.

All in 20 dollar bills.

For the safety of everyone on the plane, when it landed in Seattle, the money was exchanged for the passengers. The FBI was present, but could not yet interfere due to safety concerns for the captain and some of the crew that Cooper requested to stay on the plane.

The man then had the pilot fly towards Mexico City; he supposedly did not care about the route that the pilot chose.

Around 8:00 at night, between Seattle, Washington and Reno, Nevada, it was dark, rainy, and windy outside. The plane was nearly 10,000 feet above a forested area. The man then took the money, a functioning parachute, and a training parachute, removed his tie, and jumped out of the Boeing 727 aircraft.

He was never seen again.

The man who performed this infamous skyjacking, the only unsolved aircraft hijacking in United States history to this day, was known as Dan (or D.B.) Cooper.

Theory 1:

Dan Cooper had an accomplice.

Some people entertain the idea that Cooper may have had an accomplice. It is said that if so, the person probably would have been an airport employee or steward. This theory makes sense, until one considers the fact that Cooper didn’t interact closely with many people on the plane, only going back and forth with brief messages to the stewardess. Besides that, having an accomplice would have involved much more coordinated exchanges, drop points, landings, and get-away plans; Cooper only made a few general requests, including the money, parachutes, and destination city.

Theory 2:

Dan Cooper died parachuting.

Many non-conspirators believe that Cooper died when he jumped from the plane. It was very dark, and there were terrible sky conditions by the time he jumped; those factors are dangerous details even for professional sky-divers. Based on his attire and the way he handled the parachutes, many suspect that he was an amateur jumper, or that the jump was one of his first times. Besides this, the FBI never found any trace of the man after the incident beyond about 6,000 dollars worth of the exact bills that were given to him in a rotting paper bag. This happened in about 1980. Popular theories are that he was impaled by trees in the forest, that he landed badly, or that he drowned in the Columbia.

Theory 3:

Dan Cooper is actually Richard Floyd McCoy Jr.

A few months after the Cooper hijacking, a man named Richard Floyd McCoy performed a similar hijacking. He held up a Boeing 727 under the name “James Johnson,”  wrote notes to the pilot while in the plane, demanded $500,000 in cash along with four parachutes, and held up the plane with a gun and a hand grenade. He was a Mormon school teacher, supposedly a member of the Utah Air National Guard, Police Science Major, and a Vietnam veteran. McCoy got away and evaded the law for a few days, but they eventually caught him due to an abundance of evidence and tips. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison, but after only 2 years in jail, he led a small prison break, and was killed in an FBI shootout. He was a favorite suspect of the FBI; however, he did control the route and the altitude of the aircraft the entire time and was an experienced parachuter, which Cooper showed no sign of.

Theory 4:

Dan Cooper worked for military or national intelligence.

Recent developments in the case implicate Cooper as a possible military intelligence operative. A letter released by the FBI, one supposedly sent by D.B. Cooper to news stations, has a sequence of numbers that have been recognized as part of a military code.

Many think this letter is evidence of a cover-up by either the FBI, Military Intelligence, or both. The reason for this is that the FBI has had the letter (and supposedly others) for decades now. They also haven’t opened the case again

Experts on the case think this letter and code back up a theory that Cooper is actually a Vietnam War veteran named Robert W. Rackstraw, though Rackstraw’s lawyer continues to deny his involvement.


Read the FBI report here!



Check out the Buzzfeed Unsolved video!



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