Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Caiyden. Caiyden Wonders, “Who is D.B. Cooper?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Caiyden!

We hope you brought your best detective skills with you to Wonderopolis today. We’re investigating one of the FBI’s oldest unsolved cases. Have you ever heard of D. B. Cooper?

On November 24, 1971, an airplane was set to take off in Portland, Oregon, and land in Seattle, Washington. A man in his mid-40s paid cash for a one-way ticket on the flight. Dressed in a business suit and rain jacket, he carried a black briefcase onto the plane. 

Who was this passenger? No one knows his real name. He gave the name “Dan Cooper” when he bought his ticket. Later, a news reporter misheard this name and called him “D. B. Cooper.” That’s the name most people know him by today.

Just after takeoff, Cooper handed a note to one of the flight attendants. The note told her he had a bomb in his briefcase. Cooper then opened the case just enough for the flight attendant to see wires and what may have been sticks of dynamite.

Cooper then had the flight attendant write down his demands. He asked for $200,000—the equivalent of about $1.2 million in 2019—in twenty-dollar bills. He also requested four parachutes. The attendant took this note to the captain of the plane.

When the flight landed in Seattle, the $200,000 and parachutes were waiting. In exchange for them, Cooper let the plane’s 36 other passengers go. However, he kept several crew members on the plane. Cooper then directed the pilot to head for Mexico City. He ordered the pilot to fly slowly and at an altitude of 10,000 feet.

But D. B. Cooper wouldn’t make it to Mexico City. At around 8:00 PM, somewhere between Seattle, Washington, and Reno, Nevada, Cooper jumped from the back of the plane with one parachute and the $200,000.

After jumping, D. B. Cooper disappeared. The FBI did an extensive investigation and searched the area in which Cooper is believed to have jumped. Still, the case went cold, meaning it remained open with no new evidence. In 2016, the FBI announced that it would no longer be actively investigating the case. 

So, what happened to D. B. Cooper? Many people think he didn’t survive the jump. After all, winds blow at 200 miles per hour at 10,000 feet up, and the parachute he jumped with wasn’t steerable. He jumped into a wooded area at night and wasn’t dressed for the task. It’s possible that he didn’t make it.

However, many suspects have been identified over the years. Many at the FBI believe D. B. Cooper was really Richard Floyd McCoy, who was later arrested for a similar hijacking.  Others point their fingers at Robert Rackstraw, a Vietnam veteran and explosives expert. Still others believe D. B. Cooper was Walter Reca, who claimed to be the hijacker just before his death in 2014. 

Will the world ever know what became of D.B. Cooper? That’s up to you! Use your powers of investigation and get to the bottom of the case, if you can. You could solve one of the 20th Century’s greatest mysteries.

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.1M, CCRA.W.8, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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