November 24

This Day in History

General Interest

Nov 24, 1971:

Hijacker parachutes into thunderstorm

A hijacker calling himself D.B. Cooper parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines 727 into a raging thunderstorm over Washington State. He had $200,000 in ransom money in his possession.

Cooper commandeered the aircraft shortly after takeoff, showing a flight attendant something that looked like a bomb and informing the crew that he wanted $200,000, four parachutes, and "no funny stuff." The plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where authorities met Cooper's demands and evacuated most of the passengers. Cooper then demanded that the plane fly toward Mexico at a low altitude and ordered the remaining crew into the cockpit.

At 8:13 p.m., as the plane flew over the Lewis River in southwest Washington, the plane's pressure gauge recorded Cooper's jump from the aircraft. Wearing only wraparound sunglasses, a thin suit, and a raincoat, Cooper parachuted into a thunderstorm with winds in excess of 100 mph and temperatures well below zero at the 10,000-foot altitude where he began his fall. The storm prevented an immediate capture, and most authorities assumed he was killed during his apparently suicidal jump. No trace of Cooper was found during a massive search.

In 1980, an eight-year-old boy uncovered a stack of nearly $5,880 of the ransom money in the sands along the north bank of the Columbia River, five miles from Vancouver, Washington. The fate of Cooper remains a mystery.

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