On November 24th 1971, an unassuming passenger aboard Northwest Orient Flight 305 from Portland to Seattle passed a note to a flight attendant that read, “I have a bomb in my briefcase. I will use it if necessary. I want you to sit next to me. You are being hijacked.”
The man (who had given his name as “Dan Cooper” when he bought his ticket) made his demands known—the jet would land in Seattle, where he would receive $200,000 and four parachutes. The plane would be refueled, and allowed to take off again. Upon receiving the ransom, Cooper allowed all the other passengers and two attendants to leave the plane. The Boeing 727 left Seattle at 7:40 PM with a minimal flight crew and instructions to fly to Reno, Nevada.
Shortly after 8:00 PM, the aircrew (whom Cooper had ordered to stay in the cockpit) received indications that the jet’s rear stairs had been deployed. Cooper was gone, having bailed out somewhere over southwest Washington state. He was never seen again; the case remains as the only unsolved instance of air piracy in FBI history.
That was then, this is now. Over 40 years later, Cooper’s true identity and eventual fate are hotly-debated topics at D. B. Cooper Days, held annually in the tiny hamlet of Ariel, Washington, in the area where Cooper is supposed to have jumped. Authors on the case attend to discuss evidence with Cooper fans and defend their hypotheses. There is food, beer, and live music. A costume contest selects the best lookalikes of Cooper and the aircrew. Speculation runs rampant, and glasses are raised in toast to the notorious antihero who got away.
Update: As of May 2018, this is closed.
Know Before You Go
Take Interstate 5 to Woodland, WA, then go approximately 10 miles east on State Route 503 to Merwin Village.