The Mystery Of D.B. Cooper: 6 Things To Know About The Case Ahead of The HBO Documentary

FBI Sketches of D.B. Cooper

The case surrounding the mysterious events of D.B. Cooper's hijacking of a commercial aircraft high above the American Northwest has perplexed members of the public and law enforcement officials for nearly 50 years. Ever since the clean-cut man armed with a briefcase, a ransom note, and a bomb demanded a large sum of cash before jumping out mid-flight with a parachute never to be seen again has become the stuff of legend, which is why it's the focus on the new HBO movie The Mystery of D.B. Cooper.

This feature-length documentary, which is being released 49 years to day of the infamous occurrence, dives into the hijacking, the decades-long investigation, and those who claim to know the true identity of a brazen criminal who has yet to be identified. And before you watch for yourself, here are six quick things to know about the case.

A reenactment of the hijacking in The Mystery of D.B. Cooper

Armed With A Bomb And A $200,000 Ransom Note, D.B. Cooper Hijacked A Boeing 727 On Thanksgiving Eve

For the passengers and flight crew aboard the Boeing 727 taking off from Portland, Oregon for Seattle, Washington on November 24, 1971, everything seemed like it would be a routine 30-minute flight between the two cities. But then a flight attendant by the name of Florence Schaffner received a very strange note from an unassuming man in a black suit claiming to be D.B. Cooper, which read, in all capital letters, that he had a bomb and requested she sit next to him. After examining the bomb for herself, the young flight attendant was told that when they plane reached its destination, D.B. Cooper wanted $200,000 in cash, four parachutes, and a fuel truck to add fuel, and if anything seemed off, he would detonate the bomb.

Once the plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the passengers were ushered off the plane and D.B. Cooper's cash and parachutes were loaded, the smooth-talking hijacker told the remaining crew to set course for Mexico. Once the plane left the tarmac, it was the last time anyone not on the plane would see Cooper ever again.

A shot of the area D.B. Cooper jumped in The Mystery of D.B. Cooper

The Mysterious Hijacker Jumped From The Plane During A Rainstorm Near The Washington-Portland Border

At some point after leaving Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, after the plane was in the air, D.B. Cooper decided, for reasons that remain unknown, to jump from the plane in the middle of a rainstorm in the dark of night, and no one has seen him or the $200,000 (at least not in its original state) since. When the FBI was still investigating the case (more on that later on), there were some in the Bureau who originally thought Cooper was an experienced skydiver, but others suggested that no expert would open the door of a commercial jet and dive into the rain in the middle of the night. The FBI, who helped gather the cash and parachutes, also found it strange that someone with experience would fail to notice the reserve chute had been sewn shut.

Some of the recovered cash in The Mystery of D.B. Cooper

A Portion Of The Ransom Money Was Found In Washington State In 1980

Only a handful of pieces of evidence has been recovered in the years following the mysterious disappearance of D.B. Cooper, with one of the biggest being a bundle of $20 bills found by a boy while camping with his parents on the banks of the Columbia River in Washington State in 1980.

Brian Ingram, who would later sell the evidence more than 25 years after finding it, told Arkansas Times back in 2006 that his parents contacted the police when they made the strange find and the heavily deteriorated bills were given to the FBI who traced them back to the D.B. Cooper hijacking. The bills, which were in such rough shape they couldn't reenter circulation, were held by the FBI for a number of years before they were divided among the bureau, Brian Ingram, and Northwest Airlines.

Retired FBI Agent Nick O'Hara in The Mystery of D.B. Cooper

The FBI Officially Ended Its Investigation Into The D.B. Cooper Hijacking In 2016

Over the years, the case of D.B. Cooper has become one of those strange moments in the history that have shown up on shows like Unsolved Mysteries and brought up in random conversations. And while it may sound hard to believe, the FBI only stopped actively investigating the case in July 2016, nearly 45 years after the mysterious figure leapt out of a plane with $200,000 in cash and became a legend.

In a statement from the Bureau, it was revealed that funds previously allocated for the case would be going to other, more pressing investigations but that all collected information would be kept at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. And despite the formal conclusion of the investigation, the FBI still asked that anyone with information or physical evidence contact their local field office.

Marla Cooper, the nephew of a suspect, in The Mystery of D.B. Cooper

There Have Been Dozens Of Suspects, But None Have Been Confirmed To Be D.B. Cooper

There have been hundreds of leads and dozens of suspects investigated by the FBI over the years, with some being brought in for questioning, but the mysterious hijacking and disappearance still remains unsolved. And even though the FBI is no longer officially looking into the matter, new suspects have continued to be named as recent as 2018 when Oregon Live ran a piece about an anonymous researcher who was convinced he found the guy who met the description of D.B. Cooper. But like the other possible suspects over the years, nothing has come of this one in the years since the announcement.

A still from The Mystery of D.B. Cooper

The Mystery Of D.B. Cooper Documentary Explores The Case, The Copycats, And Those Who Claim To Know The Man

All of this and more will be explored in The Mystery of D.B. Cooper, Emmy-nominated filmmaker John Dower's most recent feature-length documentary. Over the course of the 87-minute documentary, the film will touch on the crime itself and those who claim to know the true identity of the infamous figure behind one of the most bizarre and unexplainable crimes of all time. The documentary from the man behind films such as My Scientology Movie, Thrilla in Manila, and The Last 48 Hours of Kurt Cobain, will also dive into the crazy world of copycat cases that were inspired by incident in the subsequent 49 years.

You can catch The Mystery of D.B. Cooper on HBO at 9 p.m. tonight, at which time it will be available for streaming on HBO Max and the other streaming services from the premium cable channel.

Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.