You’ve heard the name many times and talked about over the years- yes, his name is D.B. Cooper. The man responsible for hijacking an airplane and, without harming a single soul on-board, escaped with two-hundred thousand dollars in cash and was never heard from again. The Mystery of D.B. Cooper is a newly released documentary that explores the crime of the hijacking, examines what little clues were found and even proposes some suspects that could’ve been the mastermind himself. Writer and Director John Dower (My Scientology Movie) takes us on a journey that left me with some lingering questions and to this day, I still wonder what led to this moment that became the only unsolved air piracy crime committed in commercial aviation history.
It was the eve of Thanksgiving, November 24 1971. A well-dressed man purchased a ticket for flight 305 to Seattle. He identified himself as “Dan Cooper” and paid cash for his ticket. He was a quiet man who appeared to be in his mid-forties and kept to himself. He boarded the plane, sat in the rear and ordered a drink prior to takeoff. He gave a flight attendant a note, which she thought was the man’s phone number, but after putting it in her purse, the mystery man urged her to read it. The note detailed that the man had something on his mind and after reading the note, the flight attendant sat on the seat next to him. He opened his briefcase a show her what appeared to be a bomb. He had a list of demands that he wanted- “$200,000 in “negotiable American currency; four parachutes (two primary and two reserve); and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the aircraft upon arrival.”
After landing in Seattle and getting what he wanted, the passengers were allowed to disembark the aircraft even though they were unaware that the flight had been hijacked. This D.B. Cooper fella didn’t rush the cockpit with a firearm or threaten anyone with violence, in a way, he was very subtle about his actions. He ordered the flight crew to head to Mexico City where he hatched his getaway plan. He activated the aft airstair (which is how passengers boarded the airplane) and disappeared into the night.
Nearly fifty years have passed and still, his identity is unknown, no body has been found and only a small sum of money was discovered eight years after the hijacking. The movie introduces us to several key people that were involved in the investigation including an F.B.I. Agent, several authors who wrote about this crime and even some individuals who claimed to have known someone who really was D.B. Cooper. I won’t detail these people specifically but I will mention that they offer some insights as to a possible motive and even some odd moments they can recall that greatly impacted them in believing that someone they knew was, in fact, D.B. Cooper. Funny thing, he identified himself as “Dan Cooper” but due to a news miscommunication, the name stuck and became infamous.
One of the things that struck me when I first heard about this case, many years ago, was “what was the motive”? It’s a ballsy thing to hijack a plane but what drove this mystery man to commit such a daring crime? As I said before, the people we meet during the course of the film offer their own suggestions, and while some of them are compelling, there’s really nothing there that one can put their finger on. John Dower does a good job of asking the right questions and even going so far to recreate the events that unfolded that fateful day.
I appreciated the fact that we are taken into the mystery, an idea that allows the viewer to ponder questions and form their own speculations and conclusions. This is a compelling documentary and while I’d seen others prior to this one, I did learn some new details and with that, even more questions were raised.
Score 4 out of 5
The Mystery of D.B. Cooper takes the audience on quite a journey. Following what little clues that were left behind, we are asking ourselves constantly, “did he make it?” Personally, I think he did and since no body has yet to be found and all of the money hasn’t been recovered, it very well may be the perfect crime that one has committed. I praise John Dower for examining all the possible suspects that are mentioned and wondering if one of them was the man himself. It’s a deepening mystery that has yet to be solved and one that intrigues the minds of the curious. While you may know the story of D.B. Cooper, you may want to check out this documentary that does raise some interesting questions and explores one of the most infamous cases in American History.