‘Hero’ Flight Attendant Recounts D.B. Cooper Hijacking

'Hero' Flight Attendant Recounts D.B. Cooper Hijacking a passenger plane flies in front of a large, full moon at dusk (Frank Rumpenhorst/AP)

By Theodore Bunker | Monday, 06 December 2021 04:31 PM

Tina Mucklow, a former flight attendant who was onboard the plane that was famously hijacked by an unknown man only identified as D.B. Cooper, recounted her experience in an interview with The Independent ahead of a new film about the incident.

"I still can feel things as I remember them in detail," Mucklow, who was only 22 when the hijacking took place in 1971, told the newspaper. "I still get goosebumps at times."

The hijacker, who used the name Dan Cooper to buy his ticket for the flight, boarded a plane from Portland, Oregon, bound for Seattle, Washington, on Nov. 24, 1971. At around 3 p.m. PT, Cooper handed a flight attendant, Florence Schaffner, a note saying he had a briefcase containing a bomb and demanding she sit next to him.

The FBI's official account states, "the stunned stewardess did as she was told. … Soon, she was walking a new note to the captain of the plane that demanded four parachutes and $200,000 in $20 bills."

Cooper received the money and the parachute during a stop, and eventually jumped from the plane, a Boeing 727-51, with the money while it was in flight. He was never seen again, and his identity remains a mystery to officials.

Mucklow told the Independent she picked up the note Cooper gave to Schaffner after she dropped it while sitting down.

"I picked it up, and it basically said, 'Miss, I have a bomb, come sit next to me, you're being hijacked,'" Mucklow said, adding she could tell the threat was real because Schaffner had gotten up to sit next to him, which she said was "totally not normal procedure."

"The intercom system was right next to me. I reached over and grabbed the phone" and called the cockpit using an emergency signal not intended for use early in a flight as the plane was lifting off.

"I just started to talk," she recounted. "I said, 'We're being hijacked, and this is not a joke.'"

Mucklow became the main communicator between Cooper and the crew, even having to collect his cash for him, relaying his demands to the cockpit and providing a "barrier" between him and the other passengers. She told the Independent she and the other crew members made sure to be "respectful of the hijacker," that he felt "comfortable," and that the crew "were going to work with him."

She said, Cooper "wanted his demands met by a certain time, which posed a huge problem for the people on the ground. There were several times when he got really upset, and I tried to keep him calm and reiterate that we were doing the best we could and trying to give him as much information as possible."

After the plane stopped and Cooper received the money and parachute, he instructed the crew to take off again with the door open and eventually asked Mucklow to show him how to lower the stairs. He then told her to join the crew in the cockpit.

"I was terribly loud and eerie to have the door open during take off," Mucklow said, "and the airplane was totally dark in the back. I felt so alone at that point."

The plane eventually landed in Reno, Nevada, where they were met by federal officials.

"Pretty soon, a car came up, and they were like, ‘Who are you?'" Mucklow recounted. "I said, 'I'm one of the crew. Who are you?' And they said, 'We're the FBI.'"