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.
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.
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).
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.