D.B. Cooper and Camera Cell Phones

These composite drawings of D.B. Cooper is all the identification law enforcement has had to go on since the day Cooper demanded a ransom of $200,000 while enroute on a Northwest Orient Airlines flight from Portland, Oregon to Seattle Washington on November 24, 1971.

When a passenger with the name Dan Cooper boarded a Northwest Orient Airlines  flight  from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington and demanded a $200,000 ransom and four parachutes the stewardess who was handed the note thought it was a man asking for her phone number and put it in her pocket.

Cooper then told her to look at the note because he had a bomb and would blow up the plane if he wasn’t given $200,000 in cash and four parachutes which would be needed for him to jump from the plane.

I have been wondering how things may have changed that day if there had been cell phones with cameras in use in 1971. He still may have jumped from the plane but authorities would have a good photo of the extortionist and he likely would have been captured if he had survived the jump. Most importantly they would have had concrete identification of Cooper or the man pretending to be named Cooper.

Meanwhile after his demands officials in Seattle were rounding up the $200,000 Cooper demanded and took a photograph of each bill so they could trace them if they were found later. It took some time since they had to run ten thousand $20 bills through the machine to get the photographs.

After receiving the money and parachutes at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Cooper ordered the plane to fly to Mexico City after it was refueled. The plan to go to Mexico City was abandoned when First Officer William Rataczak told Cooper that there was not enough fuel to fly to Mexico City under the conditions.

Cooper then decided to fly to Reno, Nevada after consulting with the crew where the plane was refueled and took off again. A little later Cooper lowered the aft stairs and left the plane and was never seen again. He jumped during a heavy rainstorm.

After the jump Cooper became known as D.B. Cooper. Rewards were offered for anyone finding one of the bills with the serial numbers known to be given to Cooper.

Nine years after the hijacking eight year old Brian Ingram found 294 of the $20 bills worth $5,880 on the banks of the Columbia River. He was allowed to keep $2,860 of the ransom money.

The airline industry now has new technology that  prevents the lower stairway from being lowered during flight.

Cooper was given a non-functional parachute that was only for demonstrational use among the four parachutes and since it was not left on the plane he may have used that chute.

There have been some suspects who were investigated but weren’t charged with the hijacking of the Northwest Orient flight.

Still almost 40 years later I can’t help but wonder if Dan Cooper had survived and was using an alias if he would have been identified by someone carrying a cell phone with a camera making it more difficult for him to ever live a normal life. Today there might be hundreds of cell phones on a flight that could be used to take a photo if cell phones were allowed to be used on that flight.