In 1971 I was TV news anchorman at KRNV, the NBC affiliate in Reno, Nevada. November 24 had been an otherwise calm news day. Just about the time we went on the air at 5:30 with the news, we got a news flash from the Associate Press wire service that a Northwest Airlines passenger jet had been hijacked from Portland, Oregon...my hometown. All we knew at the time was that the jet, Flight 305 to Seattle, had been hijacked and was on the ground in Seattle. It turned out the a man who had booked his flight lunder the name Dan Cooper (a reporter mistakenly identified him as D. B. Cooper which stuck) had demanded a ransom, several parachutes, and instructions to take him to Mexico. We reported this on our newscast. Before the newscast ended at 6pm we updated our report of the hijacking that the aircraft had left Seattle and was heading south.
I was both the early and late news anchor and realized this story was going to fill much of our newscast at 11pm. About 10pm we got word that the hijacker had parachuted out of the aircraft and it had been ordered to land in Reno.
Following is how it began as reported on the internet on Wikipedia...Cooper had justs handed the flight attendant a note.
"Florence Schaffner, the flight attendant situated nearest to him (Cooper) 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: "I want $200,000 in unmarked 20-dollar bills. I want two back parachutes and two front parachutes. When we land, I want a fuel truck ready to refuel. No funny stuff or I’ll do the job."
It took the airline and FBI several hours to raise the ransom. When Cooper got the money, he allowed most of the flight crew and all of the passengers to be released. The aircraft took off and about 8pm a light came on signaling that the aft exit had been opened...it was directly under the tail of the aircraft.. Cooper had parachuted out the rear door. The plane was ordered to land in Reno where it sat for hours while the FBI inspected it for fingerprints and other clues.
In that interim, I must have spoken to two dozen news directors in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle, and Portland. Not long after that, the CBS affiiliate in Portland called and I was soon anchoring the news there.
DB Cooper was never found. Only a portion of the money was recovered...read the Wikipedia article for details.
Coincidentally, several years later I was news director and anchorman of the CBS affiliate in Santa Maria, California, when the Hearst Castle caught fire under suspicious circumstances. I had a reporter nearby who shot the only film of the fire. CBS News called me and asked to have the film. They flew a jet from Los Angeles to Santa Maria in time to have film coverage of the event on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. We were the only network to have film coverage...pretty exciting stuff.