D.B. Cooper Hijacked Plane 40 Years Ago

11/24/2011 05:06 PM ET

D.B. Cooper -D.B. Cooper had chosen Thanksgiving Eve 40 years ago to leap out of a jetliner into a cold, stormy night clutching a $200,000 ransom. To this day, he created more than a mystery for federal agents to solve. The skydiver gave birth to an American subculture.

Not even Hollywood action heroes can outdo the legend of D.B. Cooper: After smoking a cigarette and ordering a bourbon and soda, a neatly dressed loner used the threat of a bomb to hijack a Northwest Orient 727 flying from Portland to Seattle on Nov 24, 1971.

Cooper politely released the 36 other passengers in exchange for $200,000 and four parachutes.

D.B. then ordered the plane to “fly to Mexico,” but somewhere in a rainstorm over southeastern Washington forests, he lowered the jet’s rear escape ramp and stepped into history with a backpack full of $20 bills, leaving behind a clip-on tie.

Cooper was never seen again, and the crime is the only unsolved American hijacking. The only real development came in 1980, when an 8-year-old boy found $5,800 in tattered ransom money along the Columbia River near Vancouver, Wash.

FBI Special Agent Fred Gutt of the Seattle Division FBI Headquarters says the skyjacking “is still an open investigation. Some matters are still being researched, but we have no further leads at this time.”

Meanwhile, no one knows if Cooper made it safely on the ground on that stormy night.

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