How the Hunt for D.B. Cooper Worked

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Author's note: How the Hunt for D.B. Cooper Worked

D.B. Cooper was one of the first subjects, like ghosts and trepanation, to catch my attention as a kid. I remember seeing his story first on the old NBC series Unsolved Mysteries, and I still hear Robert Stack's voice narrate when I imagine the staircase lowering from the jet in flight and Cooper jumping into the night sky over Washington. When I came to and worked as the history writer for a time, this was one of the first article ideas I pitched.

One of the parts of the D.B. Cooper story that makes it so enduring isn't just the mystery alone. It's also the tantalizing clues or the theories from retired FBI agents that float to the surface of the media from time to time and revive the whole discussion again. The D.B. Cooper mystery is alluring because it may never be solved (and I kind of hope it isn't).

But there is also a darker side to it -- even darker than the crime itself. The Cooper theft led to a new world where hijacking is possible. In just a few short years, taking control of airplanes filled with hostages became too regular an occurrence. I don't think you can pin that trend entirely on Cooper, but his crime did take away a lot of the naïveté that people once had toward air travel.

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