The mystery of DB Cooper’s kidnapping and disappearance after 50 years lives on in the Pacific Northwest

It has become a familiar story in Pacific Northwest, if not further. As with many infamous unsolved mysteries, only the name – D.B. Cooper – can lift the hair on the neck and inspire wonders.

Wednesday marks 50 years since a mysterious man widely known as D.B. Cooper (“Dan Cooper” being the name he used for a one-way ticket) jumped out of the back stair door of a Boeing 727 for $200,000 somewhere over southwest Washington. It remains the single unsolved case of air piracy in US history.

It began on November 24, 1971, when a man calling himself Dan Cooper bought a one-way ticket from Portland to Seattle on Northwest Orient Airlines. On the Boeing 727, he handed a note to the flight attendant saying he had a bomb and that he wanted $200,000 and four parachutes, as well as a refueling truck when the plane arrived in Seattle.

Northwest Airlines 727 hijacked by DB Cooper on a runway at Reno International Airport.  Cooper had parachuted before the plane landed.  (Associated Press/Provided by seattlepi.com)
Northwest Airlines 727 hijacked by DB Cooper on a runway at Reno International Airport. Cooper had parachuted before the plane landed. (Associated Press/Provided by seattlepi.com)PI . file

Once he arrived, he exchanged the passengers for money and instructed the pilots to take off again with a flight plan for Mexico. Somewhere over southwestern Washington state, the man lowered the rear staircase door of the 727 and jumped out of it. Not seen again.

The only evidence ever verified was a small cache of $20 bills discovered along the Columbia River in 1980. It bore serial numbers that matched some of the money given to Cooper. In 2016, the FBI announced that it would stop actively investigating the case, but would take action on any physical evidence, whether by parachute or money.

The FBI said at the time: “The mystery surrounding the November 1971 hijacking of a Northwest Orient Airlines plane by an unknown person led to significant international interest and a decades-old manhunt.” “Despite the FBI’s appreciation of the overwhelming number of tips provided by members of the public, none of it has so far led to a definitive identification of the hijacker.”

A map of where the hijacker is believed to have jumped.  (seattlepi.com file)

A map of where the hijacker is believed to have jumped. (seattlepi.com file)

PI . file

Investigators of all kinds pursued the case over the years, some with theories too wild to be believed and others with more realistic ideas. Among them, Tom Colbert has been the most prominent in recent years (although not the only one Announcing the suspect), with a 40-member Cold Case team made up of the former FBI, local law enforcement, and the military.

Colbert announced the designation of a US Army veteran, Robert W. Raxtrow, as a suspect in Cooper. Rackstraw was actually considered by the FBI in the late 1970s, before the bureau decided it was no match.

But Colbert over the past seven years has developed a detailed case that refers to Raxtrow, Including searching for codes in messages allegedly sent by Cooper To newspapers supporting the veteran as the culprit. For his part, Raxtrow told SeattlePI to confirm Colbert’s story but did not directly deny the accusation.

November 26, 1971: A helicopter takes off from search headquarters as Clark County Deputy Sheriff Bob Rayburn checks a map of the area where DB Cooper parachuted from the hijacked Northwest Airlines flight.  (Associated Press/Provided by seattlepi.com)
November 26, 1971: A helicopter takes off from search headquarters as Clark County Deputy Sheriff Bob Rayburn checks a map of the area where DB Cooper parachuted from the hijacked Northwest Airlines flight. (Associated Press/Provided by seattlepi.com)PI . file

Adding to the intrigue of Colbert’s story, his team also said that the FBI worked to cover up potential leads in the case, beginning in the late 1970s, because Raxtrow was in The truth about a secret CIA agent working all over the world.


Nearly five decades later, the most widely accepted theory is that Cooper died while on the run and simply lost his body and possessions to weathering. But even earlier this year, a local historian Dig on the banks of the Columbia River Hoping to find new clues to solve the case.

And while it won’t be the last word on Cooper’s case, it will likely continue in what is now a great domestic fable.



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