Was D.B. Cooper Terminally Ill? Hijacker Signed Manifesto Saying He Had Just 14 Months to Live, FBI Docs Show


The Federal Bureau of Investigation released two letters that were purportedly written and sent by Cooper as part of its latest unsealing of memos, tips, and research from the agency’s 45-year investigation of the infamous hijacker.

Someone claiming to be D.B. Cooper wrote that he had just 14 months to live in a manifesto sent to a handful of news organizations just weeks after the hijacker infamously took over a commercial flight and skydived away with $200,000.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released two letters that were purportedly written and sent by Cooper as part of its latest unsealing of memos, tips and research from the agency’s 45-year investigation of the infamous hijacker.

Inside Edition Digital obtained copies of these letters, including the manifesto received by the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 11, 1971. In that letter, a man purporting to be Cooper lists the reasons why police will never be able to identify him, writing, "I'm not a boasting man," "I left no fingerprints," "I wore a toupee," and "I wore putty make-up."

The letter also opens with Cooper writing: "I didn't rob Northwest Orient because I thought it would be romantic, heroic or any of the other euphemisms that seem to attach themselves to situations of high risk."

It goes on to read: "I'm no modern-day Robin Hood. Unfortunately, do have only 14 months to live."

The other letter, sent around the same time, was addressed “Mr. Airport Manager” at the “Portland Airport.”

The letter reads: “Dear Mannager [sic], Much of the credit for my success is yours. Thanks. I am departing very soon for foreign soil, flying naturally. Thanks again."

That letter contained an actual signature, but it is redacted in the FBI document.


It was on Nov. 24, 1971, just a few weeks before that letter arrived at the Times, when a man identifying himself as Dan Cooper boarded a Northwest Orient Airlines flight in Portland bound for Seattle.

Cooper stood approximately 6-feet tall and was wearing a dark suit and black necktie with loafers and a raincoat. 

He requested a bourbon, smoked a cigarette, and then gave flight attendant Florence Schaffner a note.                       

Schaffner would later say in an interview with the FBI that when she forgot to read the note, Cooper called her over and whispered: "Miss, you'd better look at that note. I have a bomb."

Cooper threatened to blow up the plane and kill all 36 passengers if his demands were not met, and the aircraft spent two hours circling the airport while efforts were underway to meet his demands.

An employee of Northwest eventually brought Cooper 10,000 unmarked $20 bills and four parachutes in a knapsack, at which point he released the 36 passengers and Schaffner from the plane.

The aircraft then refueled while Cooper instructed the rest of the crew that they were to fly from Seattle to Reno at an altitude of no more than 10,000 feet. He also requested that the plane travel at the slowest possible speed.


Two hours after landing in Seattle, the crew and Cooper were back up in the air. The crew was instructed by Cooper to all stay in the cockpit so they would not see his exit.

Three planes took off soon after the hijacked Northwest Orient flight but failed to catch where Cooper bailed from the aircraft with his parachutes and money.

The FBI dusted the plane for fingerprints, followed up on hundreds of leads and even released the serial numbers on the bills given to Cooper, but there were never any major breaks in the case.

In fact, it was almost nine years before any evidence linked to the case was discovered at all. In February 1980, 8-year-old Brian Abrams found some of the money that had been given to Cooper.

While on vacation with his family in Washington the young boy discovered three bundles of cash while searching for firewood to build a campfire.

It was unclear how the money got there. The other 9,710 other bills and parachutes have never been found.


Many in the FBI believe that Cooper would have been unable to survive his jump, which would explain the fact that he has never been apprehended and none of that money was ever found in circulation.  

In 2016, the FBI officially closed their investigation into the D.B. Cooper case.

“We have arrived at our conclusion today that it was just time to close the case because there isn’t anything new out there,” Special Agent in Charge Frank Montoya, Jr. said at the time. “There’s a lot that goes into that decision but really it was just time.”


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