A hijacker holiday in Washington
Each year, DB Cooper Days brings more than 200 people to the Ariel Store and Tavern in Washington. (CC by Jimmy Wayne)
On the fourth Saturday of November, the town of Ariel, Washington celebrates the United States’ only uncaught hijacker.
Each year, DB Cooper Days (plural even though the celebration has long been a one-day affair) brings more than 200 people to the Ariel Store and Tavern (288 Merwin Village Road; 360-2257126), where the FBI set up headquarters in 1971 while searching for the criminal who hijacked a flight from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington.
The suspect, who identified himself as Dan Cooper, informed a flight attendant that he had a bomb in his briefcase and demanded four parachutes and $200,000 in ransom. Upon landing in Seattle, the plane was refuelled per Cooper’s demand, the 36 passengers and two flight attendants were allowed to de-plane and authorities handed Cooper the money and the parachutes. The plane took off again with only Cooper, two pilots, a flight attendant and a flight engineer onboard. Twenty minutes into the flight, after asking the remaining crew to stay in the cockpit, Cooper activated the air stair door in the back of the 727 plane and parachuted out over southwest Washington. He was presumed to land near Lake Merwin, a few miles southeast of Ariel, 150 miles south of Seattle and 40 miles north of Portland.
Cooper was never found and the FBI file was never closed, leaving the door open for plentiful speculation about what happened to the man and the money. At the Ariel Tavern, Cooper-philes compete to tell the best story of what happened to the hijacker and visitors vie for the title of best DB Cooper lookalike, with costumes consisting of a simple business suit, dark sunglasses, a parachute and a black clip-on necktie (which the hijacker had left on the plane).
The event, this year on 24 November (the actual date of the hijacking 41 years ago), starts at 1pm and runs until about midnight. The tavern does not charge for admission, but keeps plenty of beer on hand for DB lookalikes willing to spend their lookalike ransoms.