Jumping Out of Airplanes

When Luke Aikins jumped from a plane at 25,000 feet with no parachute, he made history last Saturday. But he wasn’t the first man to make news jumping out of a plane. It happened on November 24, 1971. An unidentified man hijacked a Boeing 727 Northwest Orient Airlines plane in Portland, Oregon. Carrying a black attache case, he approached the counter of the airlines at the Portland airport. He identified himself as Dan Cooper, and purchased a one-way ticket to Seattle.

The plane took off as scheduled, at 2:50 p.m. A few minutes into the flight, he told Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant, that he had a bomb. He told her his simple demands: $200,000 in “negotiable American currency,” four parachutes (two primary and two reserves), and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the plane upon arrival. Ms. Schaffner told the pilot, William Scott, his demands.

Scott contacted authorities, who authorized the payment of the ransom. The other 36 passengers were told the plane had a “minor mechanical difficulty,” to explain why it circled Seattle for two hours, in order for authorities to respond to Cooper’s demands.

FBI agents assembled the money – 10,000 $20 bills. The parachutes were located and brought to the airport. At 5:24 p.m. Cooper was told his demands had been met, and at 5:29 p.m. the plane landed in Seattle. Once his demands were met, Cooper released most of the crew and all the passengers. At 7:40 p.m. the plane was airborne once again.

At about 8:00 p.m. Cooper opened the aft door and jumped. The FBI began an immediate investigation. In the decades to follow, hundreds of investigators have run down thousands of tips, but to no avail. Last week, 45 years after the crime, the FBI announced they are formally ending the investigation in order to focus on “more pressing priorities.”

Nine individuals have been considered suspects through the years. But whoever “Dan Cooper” really is (or was), one thing is certain. No amount of money is worth living out a life of isolation. Jesus asked, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).

Mr. Cooper, if you are reading this (admittedly not likely), you can run from others. You can run from the law. But you can’t run from yourself – or God.

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