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24 November 2020 18:32

D. B. Cooper Aircraft hijacking John Dower

The mystery of DB Cooper – the hijacker who jumped out of an airliner and into legend

In 1971, a man hijacked a plane, was given $200 000 in ransom money, parachuted out of said plane in a black suit, and was never seen again. Quite incredibly, the case remains the only unsolved plane hijacking in US history, which means it's ripe for a true-crime doccie. Enter The Hijacker Who Vanished: The Mystery of DB Cooper, an HBO doccie that lines up the prime suspects, says the Telegraph: [They are] Duane Weber, an insurance salesman who made a deathbed confession; Barbara Dayton, a transgender pilot and accomplished parachutist; LD Cooper, a logger whose niece recalls him returning home battered and bloodied at Thanksgiving; and Richard Floyd McCoy, a Vietnam veteran who carried out a near-identical skyjacking just five months later. Many investigations and examinations of the evidence have come before, and director John Dower says he's not trying to solve the crime, but rather shine a light on people whose lives have been entirely consumed by unravelling the mystery. "The enthralling The Hijacker Who Vanished picked through the evidence, considering possible endings as well as telling the stories of those who may have been, or claimed to be, the man.

HBO's documentary explores several suspects and theories surrounding the unsolved D.B. Cooper hijacking case. This week marks the 49th anniversary of the fateful November when a passenger hijacked a 727 jet on a short flight between Portland and Seattle, set the plane down long enough to release the passengers and collect $200,000 (plus four parachutes) and returned to the air before jumping out over hilly forest terrain never to be seen again. John Dower (Thrilla in Manilla), director of HBO's The Mystery of D.B. Cooper, is not here to give a definitive answer in what remains the only unsolved plane hijacking in American history. Yes, the documentary provides you with the basic background on the case, with the help of several key figures who generally pop up in Cooper-related projects — including flight attendant Tina Mucklow, co-pilot William J. With accompanying reenactments, those three tell roughly the same versions of the hijacking that they've probably told a million times over the past 49 years.

It's perfunctory and probably takes up more time than necessary in a fairly brief — 87 minutes — documentary, but I suppose that with each passing year there are fewer and fewer people who arrive pre-obsessed with D.B. Cooper. There's Richard Floyd McCoy Jr., a decorated Vietnam veteran who definitely committed a copycat hijacking months after the Cooper incident and became more suspicious through multiple subsequent jail breaks. Dower offers Jerry Thomas, who has walked the woods of Washington daily for 30 years and is certain that Cooper couldn't possibly have survived the plane evacuation, meaning that everybody is wrong. Nobody would suggest that The Mystery of D.B. Cooper needed to be 4.5 hours long like Murder on Middle Beach, nor that it needed to become an autobiographical portrait of John Dower. A hijacker who has passed into legend as "DB Cooper" parachuted from a Northwest Orient Boeing 727 with a bag containing $200,000 in ransom money an was never seen again.

He told her to pass on his demands: he wanted the plane refilled in Seattle, four parachutes and $200,000 "negotiable American currency" – Over £965,000 in today's money. He wasn't seen by either of the two fighter jets dispatched to trail the hijacked airliner, and the crew had been locked on the flight deck, but somewhere over the thickly-wooded wilderness of the pacific Northwest, "DB Cooper" had leaped out of the plane and into legend. Even his name is a mystery – He had given his name as Dan Cooper and the "DB" appears to have been added by mistake in a news broadcast. It's not certain that the hijacker survived – but a small amount of the ransom money was found by eight-year-old Brian Ingram while he was on a camping trip with his family, and one of the bundles had had a few notes removed. Among them were: Duane Weber, a career criminal who confessed to the hijacking on his deathbed, Barbara Dayton, an expert pilot who was the first gender-reassignment surgery recipient in Washington state history, and Lynn Doyle Cooper – an Army veteran who turned up at his family home for Thanksgiving 1971 looking mysteriously battered and bruised with unexplained wealth.

But perhaps the most likely suspect is Richard McCoy Jr., a decorated Vietnam veteran and explosives expert who in 1972 hijacked a plane in almost identical fashion to the Flight 305 hijacking and got away with $500,000. HBO's 'The Mystery of D.B. Cooper,' directed by Emmy-nominated John Dower, examines the tale of the unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft on November 24, 1971, and then vanished into thin-air mid-flight, never to be seen again. It's been almost half a century, but this remains the only unsolved case of a commercial flight seizure in the United States history that continues to baffle the FBI and inspire wild theories about who the mastermind behind it really was. The FBI's online record on D.B. Cooper describes him as a "white male, 6'1″ tall, 170-175 pounds, olive complexion, brown eyes, black hair, conventional cut, parted on left." On the afternoon of November 24, 1971 – Thanksgiving Eve – a man who called himself Dan Cooper, carrying a black attaché case, used cash to buy a one-way ticket on Flight 305, traveling from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington. Shortly after takeoff, he handed a note to Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant situated nearest him, indicating that he was a hijacker, had a bomb in his briefcase, and that he wanted her to sit next to him.

When the flight landed, Dan, without argument, released the 35 passengers on board in exchange for the money and parachutes. Later, somewhere between Seattle and Reno, he did the unbelievable – Dan jumped out of the back of the plane with a parachute on his back and the ransom money in hand. It was only after approximately 10:15 p.m., though, when the plane had landed safely in Reno, the investigators confirmed that Dan Cooper was not onboard anymore, having disappeared into the night.