My D. B. Cooper Spoon

This has been my favorite spoon for about 25 years now. It was Tania’s spoon, but I adopted it as my own soon after we started to live together back in 1987.

Tania got it when she was a little girl, flying back to Minneapolis with her parents, as they did every year when she was young.

This was back in the day when they still gave away “wing pins” to kids when they flew, free decks of playing cards, and real stainless steel knives, forks and spoons – truly a different time.

The D.B Cooper Tie-in…

I was watching a show the other day on D.B. Cooper, the American sky pirate who pulled off the only unsolved airline hijacking in U.S. history. This crime was committed in 1971 and the F.B.I. still has the case open.

Watching the show I learned that the flight D.B. Cooper hijacked was a Northwest Orient 727 – and I thought to myself, “Northwest Orient? My favorite spoon is a Northwest Orient spoon…”

A little investigation online and I learned that my favorite spoon is called “Northwest Orient 01 00105” and is from the same era as the D.B. Cooper story.

The D.B. Cooper Story

From Wikipedia (edited):

D. B. Cooper is the name popularly used to refer to an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft in the airspace between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington on November 24, 1971. He extorted $200,000 in ransom and parachuted to an uncertain fate. Despite an extensive manhunt and an exhaustive (and ongoing) FBI investigation, the perpetrator has never been located or positively identified. The case remains the only unsolved air piracy in American aviation history.

The suspect purchased his airline ticket under the alias Dan Cooper, but due to a news media miscommunication he became known in popular lore as “D. B. Cooper.” Hundreds of leads have been pursued in the ensuing years but no conclusive evidence has ever surfaced regarding Cooper’s true identity or whereabouts, and the bulk of the ransom money has never been recovered. Numerous theories of widely varying plausibility have been proposed by experts, reporters, and amateur enthusiasts.

The Hijacking

The event began mid-afternoon on Thanksgiving eve, November 24, 1971, at Portland International Airport in Portland, Oregon. A man carrying a black attaché case approached the flight counter of Northwest Orient Airlines. He identified himself as “Dan Cooper” and purchased a one-way ticket on Flight 305, a 30-minute trip to Seattle, Washington.

Cooper boarded the aircraft, a Boeing 727–100 (FAA registration N467US), and took seat 18C in the rear of the passenger cabin. He lit a cigarette and ordered a bourbon and soda. Onboard eyewitnesses recalled a man in his mid-forties, between 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 m) and 6 feet 0 inches (1.83 m) tall. He wore a black lightweight raincoat, loafers, a dark suit, a neatly pressed white collared shirt, a black necktie, and a mother of pearl tie pin.

Flight 305, approximately one-third full, took off on schedule at 2:50 pm, local time (PST). Cooper passed a note to Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant situated nearest to him in a jumpseat attached to the aft stair door. Schaffner, assuming the note contained a lonely businessman’s phone number, dropped it unopened into her purse. Cooper leaned toward her and whispered, “Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.”

The note was printed in neat, all-capital letters with a felt pen. It read, approximately, “I have a bomb in my briefcase. I will use it if necessary. I want you to sit next to me. You are being hijacked.” Schaffner did as requested, then quietly asked to see the bomb. Cooper cracked open his briefcase long enough for her to glimpse eight red cylinders(“four on top of four”) attached to wires coated with red insulation, and a large cylindrical battery.

After closing the case he dictated his demands: $200,000 in “negotiable American currency”; four parachutes (two primary and two reserve); and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the aircraft upon arrival. Schaffner conveyed Cooper’s instructions to the cockpit; when she returned he was wearing dark sunglasses.

A Real Gentleman…

[Flight Attendant] Schaffner described him as calm, polite, and well-spoken, not at all consistent with the stereotypes (enraged, hardened criminals or “take-me-to-Cuba” political dissidents) popularly associated with air piracy at the time.

Tina Mucklow, another flight attendant, agreed. “He wasn’t nervous,” she told investigators later. “He seemed rather nice. He was never cruel or nasty. He was thoughtful and calm all the time.” He ordered a second bourbon and water, paid his drink tab (and insisted Schaffner keep the change), and offered to request meals for the flight crew during the stop in Seattle.

 An FAA official requested a face-to-face meeting with Cooper aboard the aircraft [in Seattle], which was denied.The refueling process was delayed, reportedly due to a vapor lock in the fuel tanker truck’s pumping mechanism, and Cooper became suspicious. However, he allowed a replacement tanker truck to continue the refueling—and a third one after that, when the second ran dry. By the time Cooper finished inspecting the ransom money and parachutes, refueling had been completed.

D.B. Cooper Has Left The Plane

At approximately 7:40 pm the 727 took off with only Cooper, pilot Scott, flight attendant Mucklow, copilot Rataczak, and flight engineer H.E. Anderson aboard. Two F-106 fighter aircraft scrambled from nearby McChord Air Force Base followed behind the airliner, one above it and one below, out of Cooper’s view.A Lockheed T-33 trainer, diverted from an unrelated Air National Guard mission, also shadowed the 727 until it ran low on fuel and turned back near the Oregon-California border.

After takeoff, Cooper told Mucklow to join the rest of the crew in the cockpit and remain there with the door closed. As she complied, Mucklow observed Cooper tying something around his waist. At approximately 8:00 pm a warning light flashed in the cockpit, indicating that the aft airstair apparatus had been activated. The crew’s offer of assistance via the aircraft’s intercom system was curtly refused. The crew soon noticed a subjective change of air pressure, indicating that the aft door was open.

At approximately 8:13 pm the aircraft’s tail section sustained a sudden upward movement, significant enough to require trimming to bring the plane back to level flight. At approximately 10:15 pm, Scott and Rataczak landed the 727, with the aft airstair still deployed, at Reno Airport. FBI agents, state troopers, sheriff’s deputies, and Reno police surrounded the jet, as it had not yet been determined with certainty that Cooper was no longer aboard; but an armed search quickly confirmed that he was gone.

note: this is an edited version of the current Wikipedia entry on D.B. Cooper – read the complete article here:

Meanwhile, Back At My Spoon…

Here’s my favorite spoon now, being used tonight to stir it’s 10,000th (that might not be an exaggeration) cup of coffee. And while drinking my coffee, I’ll do a little speculating into the fictional future…

Mad Men – Season 11

In season 11 (which would take place during the year 1971) Don Draper, the lead character, decides to complete his plan of running away, and comes up with a dare-devil hijacking scheme.

After carefully hiding all the money he’s been storing up, he flies to Portland where he boards a plane under the alias of Dan Cooper (Dan because it’s close to Don and Cooper because of his partner at Sterling Cooper.)

The episode would then follow the traditional “D.B. Cooper” story line until the very end, where D.B./Dan/Don jumps – and then it cuts to the falling image of Don Draper they’ve been using during the opening credits since the beginning of the show, and is being used for the poster for the upcoming season 5…

The End

PS. Mad Men – Season 5 starts on March 25th!

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