B. Cooper Day is annually observed on November 24 and is dedicated to what remains one of the most famous mysteries of all time. In 1971, a suited man named Dan Cooper hijacked a plane going from Portland to Seattle and parachuted off it. The catch? He seems to have disappeared into thin air and was never found again, dead or alive. On D. B. Cooper Day, Ariel, Washington, the little town Cooper is thought to have landed in, hosts a festival celebrating the events surrounding the skyjacking, the investigation, and the ensuing mystery. 2021 marks the 50th anniversary, and the fierce debate continues.
History of D.B. Cooper Day
On November 24, 1971, a man who identified himself as Dan Cooper (a.k.a. D. B. Cooper) bought a one-way $20 ticket for Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305. He was in his mid-40s, six feet tall, and dressed in a suit, trench coat, and loafers. He also carried a briefcase. Once the plane had taken off, he passed a note to a flight attendant Florence Schaffner, informing her that he was carrying a bomb and the plane was being hijacked. He opened his briefcase to show Schaffner the bomb, which appeared to be a collection of wires, red sticks, and a battery.
In a subsequent note, he demanded that once the plane landed in Seattle, he should be given $200,000 in $20 bills, two parachutes. He also wanted the aircraft to be refueled for subsequent takeoff. Upon landing in Seattle, 36 passengers were evacuated, and his demands were fulfilled. While the plane was refueled, he forced two pilots, a flight engineer, and a flight attendant, to remain on board. He ordered them to fly the aircraft to Mexico City, going under 10,000 feet at a speed slower than 200 knots. Mid-flight, over what is believed to be Ariel, Washington, he parachuted off the aircraft into the night, never to be seen again.
The case almost instantly took over the nation. There were 800 suspects brought in during the first five years of Investigation NORJAK (Northwest Hijacking), but nearly all were cleared. The FBI initially thought he could’ve had a military past but quickly eliminated that theory considering D. B. Cooper’s poorly thought out and dangerous escape plan. With little to no advancement over the years, the investigation was eventually called off to put resources to better use. This remains the FBI’s only unsolved air piracy case.
Originating in Ariel, Washington, where he is believed to have disappeared, the anniversary of the hijacking is observed as D. B. Cooper Day, in remembrance of this mystery.
D.B. Cooper Day timeline
D. B. Cooper hijacks and jumps off Flight 305 with $200,000.
Richard Floyd McCoy conducts a D.B Cooper-inspired hijacking, causing the FBI to suspect and then clear him on account of his alibi.
Brian Ingram, an eight-year-old boy, finds $5,800 along the edge of the Columbia River, near Vancouver, Washington, which match the serial numbers of D. B. Cooper’s bills.
A bar in Ariel, Washington, throws a party to mark the 25th anniversary of Cooper’s hijacking, including fireworks, a lottery for Cooper merch, and a Cooper costume contest.
D.B. Cooper Day FAQs
Why did D.B. Cooper want 20 dollar bills?
Smaller bills would have been heavier and more dangerous to skydive with. Larger bills would have been safer but more challenging to pass.
Is Dan Cooper D. B. Cooper’s real name?
No, Dan Cooper was later found to be an alias.
Can D. B. Cooper still be alive?
While the chances are very slim, D. B. Cooper could still be alive. He would be quite old by now if that were the case.
How to Observe D. B. Cooper Day
Go to THE party
Plan a trip to Ariel and attend the D. B. Cooper Day party at Dona Eliott’s Ariel General Store and Tavern if you’re in Washington. While it closed down years ago, there were talks in 2019 about its reopening and a “Restore the Ariel Store” campaign to raise funds for this.
Watch D. B. Cooper content
Observe this day from the comfort of your home by having a movie day. Choose one of many documentaries made on the case.
Read about D. B. Cooper
There have been several books published about the D. B. Cooper case. In fact, one was written by FBI officers!
5 Interesting Facts About D. B. Cooper
He inspired copycats
Given the popularity of the case, many people attempted and failed to copy his hijacking.
He changed aviation security
After the D. B. Cooper case, airplanes and airports put modified security measures in place.
He was Cooper, D.B. Cooper
His appearance and attire have widely been compared to James Bond’s.
He’s a star
D. B. Cooper has inspired a significant amount of film and television content.
He may have died
His jump from a plane in flight into a dense forest in the middle of a cold winter night with 20 lbs of cash strapped to him suggests nearly no chances of survival.
Why We Love D.B. Cooper Day
It recalls a remarkable case
A case so mysterious that years of solid investigative work couldn’t solve it is a source of intrigue. The D. B. Cooper case remains a mystery even 50 years later.
It gave us an interesting character
D. B. Cooper is often portrayed in film and television as himself and shown to be alive. Whether as a hero or criminal, he has always been fascinating to the public.
It reminds us that security work is hard
The intelligence and law enforcement agencies worked tirelessly to solve the case but could not find the real D. B. Cooper or damning evidence suggesting he died. It is a reminder of how difficult the job is and stirs up an appreciation for the agents.
D.B. Cooper Day dates