Airplane hijacker DB Cooper remains a mystery (1976)

DB Cooper money - cash - FBI

Hijacker DB Cooper remains elusive: Jumped with $200,000 5 years ago

PORTLAND. Ore. (UPI) – The FBI thinks America’s Thanksgiving eve skyjacker is dead.

But if alive, “DB Cooper,” who bailed out of a Boeing 727 five years ago with $200,000 in $20 bills, can still be prosecuted, FBI Agent Ralph Himmelsbach said in an interview.

Despite reports Cooper would be free from criminal prosecution this Thanksgiving, Himmelsbach said there is no statute of limitations for him or his possible accomplices.

There is no statute of limitations in capital crimes, and air piracy or aerial hijack was a crime punishable by death in November 1971 and still is, Himmelsbach, who has been working on the case for five years, said.

DB Cooper - hijacked Northwest Orient Airlines Boeing 727

And, Himmelsbach said, if Cooper had any associates and he was killed, their crime would be a capital one.

THE EARLY NEWS STORY: The mystery of DB Cooper: Hijacker parachutes from jet (1971)

Himmelsbach said he believes Cooper was an amateur because he left the two best parachutes in the plane he commandeered, and used the shrouds of the third vest to tie the 10,000 bills to his belt.

“He wore a pilot’s seat pack parachute with a 28-foot canopy,” the agent said. “He also took with him a chest pack parachute used for training. It was unusable. The panels were sewn together.”

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Although Cooper left no fingerprints in the plane, he did leave a couple of personal items, which the FBI is not disclosing because they could help identify the hijacker.

Himmelsbach said Cooper could not have known where he was when he jumped, and furthermore, he was not dressed properly.

DB Cooper parachute bag - FBI

“It was a stormy night, with freezing rain at his altitude and winds gusting from 25 to 6 knots at Portland International Airport, maybe stronger along the Lewis River in southwest Washington where he bailed out. He was dressed in a business suit and Oxford type street shoes. He had no hat or goggles.”


Parachute experts have told the FBI that Cooper would have lost his shoes immediately upon opening the door of the plane, which was traveling at nearly 200 miles per hour. The experts have said Cooper would also have been blinded by the wind.

“With that 28-foot canopy, he would have descended 26 miles an hour vertically. Add a 30 to 55 mph wind, and he would have hit at a speed of 50 to 70 miles an hour. The experts say it is inconceivable that he could have escaped serious injury or instant death — even assuming his parachute opened.”

Shortly after the hijacking, the FBI conducted a dummy run of the incident.

The area was the subject of an intensive search that uncovered the body of a murdered girl and some parachute canopies attached to weather balloons. But there was no sign of Cooper or his white chute.

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Photo 1: Some of the stolen $20 bills found by a boy in 1980. Photo 3: One of the parachute bags provided to DB Cooper, left behind on the plane. Photos courtesy FBI.

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