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Help the F.B.I. solve a mystery. On a cold November night 36 years ago, in the driving wind and rain, somewhere between southern Washington state and just north of Portland, Oregon, a man calling himself Dan Cooper parachuted out of a plane he’d just hijacked clutching a bag filled with $200,000 in stolen cash. 

Who was Cooper? Did he survive the jump? And what happened to the loot, only a small part of which has ever surfaced? 

It’s a mystery, frankly. We’ve run down thousands of leads and considered all sorts of scenarios. And amateur sleuths have put forward plenty of their own theories. Yet the case remains unsolved. 

Would we still like to get our man? Absolutely. And we have reignited the case—thanks to a Seattle case agent named Larry Carr and new technologies like DNA testing.

You can help. We’re providing here, for the first time, a series of pictures and information on the case. Please look it all over carefully to see if it triggers a memory or if you can provide any useful information.

Cooper's black tie (left); $20 bills stolen by Cooper and recovered in 1980 (right)


Left: During the hijacking, Cooper was wearing this black J.C. Penney tie, which he removed before jumping; it later provided us with a DNA sample. Right: Some of the stolen $20 bills found by a young boy in 1980.


A few things to keep in mind, according to F.B.I. Special Agent Carr:

  • Cooper was no expert skydiver. “We originally thought Cooper was an experienced jumper, perhaps even a paratrooper,” says Special Agent Carr. “We concluded after a few years this was simply not true. No experienced parachutist would have jumped in the pitch-black night, in the rain, with a 200-mile-an-hour wind in his face, wearing loafers and a trench coat. It was simply too risky. He also missed that his reserve chute was only for training and had been sewn shut—something a skilled skydiver would have checked.”


  • The hijacker had no help on the ground, either. To have utilized an accomplice, Cooper would’ve needed to coordinate closely with the flight crew so he could jump at just the right moment and hit the right drop zone. But Cooper simply said, "Fly to Mexico," and he had no idea where he was when he jumped. There was also no visibility of the ground due to cloud cover at 5,000 feet.


  • We have a solid physical description of Cooper. “The two flight attendants who spent the most time with him on the plane were interviewed separately the same night in separate cities and gave nearly identical descriptions,” says Carr. “They both said he was about 5'10" to 6', 170 to 180 pounds, in his mid-40s, with brown eyes. People on the ground who came into contact with him also gave very similar descriptions.” 

And what of some of the names pegged as Cooper? None have panned out. Duane Weber, who claimed to be Cooper on his deathbed, was ruled out by DNA testing (we lifted a DNA sample from Cooper’s tie in 2001). Kenneth Christiansen, named in a recent magazine article, didn’t match the physical description and was a skilled paratrooper. Richard McCoy, who died in 1974, also didn’t match the description and was at home the day after the hijacking having Thanksgiving dinner with his family in Utah, an unlikely scenario unless he had help.


Parachute and parachute bag used by Cooper


One of the parachutes left behind by Cooper and the canvas bag it came in. Cooper asked for four chutes in all; he jumped with two (including one that was used for instruction and had been sewn shut). He used the cord from one of the remaining parachutes to tie the stolen money bag shut. See a larger version.


As many agents before him, Carr thinks it highly unlikely that Cooper survived the jump. “Diving into the wilderness without a plan, without the right equipment, in such terrible conditions, he probably never even got his chute open.”

Still, we’d all like to know for sure, and Carr thinks you can help.

“Maybe a hydrologist can use the latest technology to trace the $5,800 in ransom money found in 1980 to where Cooper landed upstream. Or maybe someone just remembers that odd uncle.”


Map showing Cooper's possible landing area


This map was made to help investigators figure out where Cooper landed. See a larger version.


If you have any information: please e-mail our Seattle field office at fbise@leo.gov. And for more details on the case, see our story of November 24, 2006


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