Who is D.B. Cooper? Marvel’s ‘Loki’ offers an explanation for the FBI’s unsolved airplane hijacker case

Sketch of D.B. Cooper and Loki as D.B. cooper
An artist sketch of D.B. Cooper released by the FBI and Loki as D.B. Cooper in ‘Loki.’ FBI/Disney
  • Warning: This article contains minor spoilers for the first episode of “Loki.”
  • In “Loki,” Agent Mobius shows Loki scenes from his past. One invokes the name D.B. Cooper.
  • D.B. Cooper was the alias of an airplane hijacker in 1971 whose case the FBI never solved.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The first episode of the Disney+ “Loki” series starring Tom Hiddleston was released on Wednesday morning, bringing the fan-favorite character back in a time-focused adventure. The first episode of the series picks up directly after Loki obtains the tesseract in “Avengers: Endgame” – but it also features a true crime historical reference.

“Loki” stars Hiddleston as the titular character circa 2012’s “Avengers,” fresh off of trying to conquer the Earth and recently captured by the Avengers themselves. While this isn’t the Loki that we remember from films later in the Marvel Cinematic Universe like “Thor: Ragnarok” or “Avengers: Infinity War,” there’s still plenty of new information about the character in the Disney+ series.

The first episode, titled “Glorious Purpose,” includes a reference to D.B. Cooper, one of the most mysterious criminals in American history.

The episode also gives more insight into a pre-“Thor” Loki, and the shenanigans he got into before trying to conquer Earth.

Warning: Minor spoilers for the first episode of “Loki” ahead.

D.B. Cooper was an airplane hijacker whose case remains unsolved

Artist sketches released by the FBI of a man calling himself D.B. Cooper, who vanished in 1971 with $200,000 in stolen cash after hijacking a commercial airliner over Oregon, U.S.  FBI/Handout via Reuters
Artist sketches released by the FBI of a man calling himself D.B. Cooper Thomson Reuters

The D.B. Cooper airplane hijacking is one of the great unsolved cases in American crime. And as things stand now, it likely won’t ever be solved: the FBI states on its own webpage about the case that as of July 12, 2016, the bureau has “redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case to focus on other investigative priorities.”

The case, according to the FBI, began like this: on November 24, 1971, a man who called himself Dan Cooper bought a one-way Seattle-bound ticket on a Northwest Orient Airlines flight departing from Portland, Oregon. On the flight, he wore a suit, appeared to be in his mid-40s, and ordered a cocktail (a bourbon and soda), the FBI said. He then handed a flight attendant a note saying that his briefcase contained a bomb. On his behalf, she then passed a different note to the captain of the plane containing Cooper’s demands for four parachutes and $200,000.

When the plane landed in Seattle, he was given his money and the other passengers on the aircraft deplaned. He demanded the crew fly him to Mexico City, the FBI said.

Somewhere along the way, though, Cooper jumped out of the plane with a parachute and his money. He was never found.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the hijacker later became known as “D.B. Cooper,” after a reporter misheard the “Dan Cooper” alias.

The new episode of Loki links the ‘god of mischief’ to Cooper’s case

In the first episode of “Loki,” Agent Mobius (played by Owen Wilson) shows Loki scenes from his life, including his defeat at the hands of the Avengers heroes in the first “Avengers” film and. But more surprisingly, one scene shows Loki dressed in a suit on a plane. He then orders a drink (bourbon and soda) and hands a flight attendant a note, telling her that he has a bomb.

Loki as d.b. cooper on airplane
Loki as D.B. Cooper on an airplane in the first episode of ‘Loki.’ Disney PO

Later, he straps himself into a parachute, takes the money, and jumps out of the plane midair. Rather than taking his chances with the fall, he’s safely snapped up by the Bifröst – the Asgardian mode of transportation that allows people to hop through the nine realms – as the money scatters through the air.

“I can’t believe you were D.B. Cooper,” Mobius says after the sequence ends. “Come on!”

The incident was the result of Loki losing a bet to Thor, according to the show.

In the writer’s room, it came from the brain of head writer Michael Waldron, who told Decider that he wanted to play with people’s expectations for the time travel elements of the show and thought that Cooper’s story was a fun piece of “American folklore” to invoke.

But as Waldron told Polygon, the Cooper moment also has a deeper meaning that harkens back to a popular “Mad Men” fan theory that Don Draper, the main character of the series (played by Jon Hamm), would eventually hijack a plane in 1971 as D.B. Cooper (though that didn’t happen in the series). “Mad Men,” as Polygon reported, is one of Waldron’s favorite TV series.

“It’s just a great piece of folklore,” Waldron told Polygon of the D.B. Cooper story, “but I wanted to answer once and for all who is D.B. Cooper. And if it wasn’t Don Draper, it was going to be Loki.”