Aircraft hijacking or skyjacking is the intentional taking of an airplane usually done for political purposes. Unlike ground vehicle hijacking, which is done for financial gain, for the most part, skyjacking is a darker, more dangerous, potentially life-threatening action. During the mid-1960s to the 1970s, about 160 aircraft were skyjacked worldwide. In the United States, many had taken control of aircraft, but no one had ever escaped the reach of law enforcement with one glaring exception, D.B. Cooper.
D.B. Cooper’s real name is Dan Cooper, but his legend began as D.B. Cooper because of a mistake by the media in 1971. On November 24, Cooper hijacked a Boeing 727 jetliner after purchasing a one-way ticket from Portland to Seattle, Washington. Cooper demanded $200,000, and four parachutes to be delivered upon arrival to Seattle. Authorities complied with his ransom request, and Cooper let all 36 passengers and most of the crew off the plane at that time.
Once back in the air, Cooper directed the pilot to fly to Mexico, but the jet’s fuel was not enough to make there without stopping to refuel. It was decided to land in Reno, Nevada for refueling. When the aircraft reached Reno, Cooper was not on board. It is thought that Cooper jumped out of the aircraft somewhere in the wooded forests of Oregon. He had ordered the plane to fly at the lowest possible speed and to fly at only a 10,000-foot elevation. The legend of D.B. Cooper was born.
To this date, the Cooper skyjacking is the only case that is unresolved in the United States. Cooper was never found, nor was any evidence of the $200,000, and his parachute. Many believe Cooper could not survive a drop of such a great altitude, while others say the absence of any of the money, or any evidence of his death proves he survived. In any event, D.B. Cooper is a true American legend.