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Friday, 19 October 2012

Daredevils, Thieves and Parachutes

During my search for the fella that rode on the back of a jetliner ( Rick Rojatt, the Human Fly .. see link to story and pics here..   )
I ended up swimming in aviation lore of the 1970's.

One of the legends of the 70's that is still a mystery today is the tale of DB Cooper. This man hijacked a Northwest Orient Airlines 727 passenger jet, and after some drama....ended up jumping out of the jet's back door with 200,000 dollars of ransom money and a parachute strapped to his back.
He was never seen again.
It is unknown whether or not he actually survived the jump.

For the full story on the hijacking and very interesting investigation...I would recommend a trip to Wikipedia and/or the book store or library.

What I want to point out this time around is not the crime, but the bad crazy idea of jumping out of a jetliner. ( DB Cooper did it at night, into a rainstorm )

With Felix Baumgartner's recent super sonic free fall and world record jump, fresh in mind, let's consider that 40 years ago, quite a few ballsy/desperate criminals were hijacking airliners and then jumping out of them with bags full of cash.

That's the part that blows my I said before, there must have been something in the food back make people think up crazy shit to do.

Here's the Wikipedia list for the U.S. only...
you'll notice that most chose to hijack 727 jets, that's because of the rear door/stairs on the tail that allows a clean exit. That feature doesn't exist any longer.

Copycat hijackings

Cooper was not the first to attempt air piracy for personal gain; two weeks prior, Paul Cini did it aboard an Air Canada DC-8 over Montana, but was overpowered by the crew when he put down his gun to strap on the parachute.[93] Cooper's apparent success inspired a flurry of imitators.[94] Most "copycats" struck during the year that followed. Some examples:
  • Garrett Brock Trapnell hijacked a TWA airliner en route from Los Angeles to New York City in January 1972. He demanded $306,800 in cash, the release of Angela Davis, and an audience with President Richard Nixon. After the aircraft landed at Kennedy Airport he was shot and wounded by FBI agents before being arrested.[95]
  • Richard McCoy, Jr., a former Army Green Beret, hijacked a United Airlines 727-100 in April after it left Denver, Colorado, diverted it to San Francisco, then bailed out over Utah with $500,000 in ransom money. He landed safely, but was arrested two days later.[96]
  • Frederick Hahneman used a handgun to hijack an Eastern Airlines 727 in Allentown, Pennsylvania in May, demanded $303,000, and eventually parachuted into Honduras, his country of birth. A month later, with the FBI in pursuit and a $25,000 bounty on his head, he surrendered to the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa.[97][98]
  • Robb Dolin Heady, a paratrooper and Vietnam veteran, stormed a United Airlines 727 in Reno in early June, extorted $200,000 and two parachutes, and jumped into darkness near Lake Washoe, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Reno. Police found Heady's car (sporting a U.S. Parachute Association bumper sticker) parked near the lake and arrested him as he returned to it the next morning.[99][100]
  • Martin McNally, an unemployed service station attendant, used a submachine gun in late June to commandeer an American Airlines 727 en route from St. Louis to Tulsa, then diverted it eastward to Indiana and bailed out with $500,000 in ransom.[101] McNally lost the ransom money as he exited the aircraft, but landed safely near Peru, Indiana and was apprehended a few days later in a Detroit suburb.[102]
In all, a total of 15 hijackings similar to Cooper's were attempted in 1972;[103] only Cooper has eluded capture or identification.

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