(25 May 2000, Philippines) We all enjoy learning from the past. Reflect back to November 24, 1971, aboard a Northwest Orient Airlines flight in Portland. A man who had purchased his ticket under the name of “Dan Cooper” demanded two hundred thousand dollars in cash and four parachutes. The plane made a landing in Seattle to accommodate his requests and disgorge the passengers. Once the plane was back in the air, Cooper asked how to lower the tail stairs, and then ordered the flight attendant out of the cabin. When the plane landed in Reno, the tail stairs were open and Cooper and the money were gone.
For all his cool demeanor, Cooper had the crosshairs of evolution on him when he decided to jump. There was a freezing rainstorm outside, and the wind chill from the plane’s velocity dropped the effective temperature to -60 degrees Fahrenheit. To seal his fate, he jumped with no food or survival gear into a heavily wooded forest in winter at night.
The peanuts provided on the plane were just not enough to sustain his life. It is assumed that the man the FBI called D. B. Cooper died in the mountains or hit the Columbia River and drowned. History, then, teaches us that one cannot jump out of an airplane and survive. You would think that a hijacker would know better, but…
We turn to Davao City in the Philippines this year. Augusto was a man with a mission. He boarded a Philippine Air flight to Manila, and donned a ski mask and swim goggles. Then he pulled out a gun and a grenade and announced that he was hijacking the plane. Apparently security is a bit lax at the Davao City airport.
He demanded that the plane return to Davao City, but the pilots convinced him that the aircraft was low on fuel, and they continued on toward Manila. Augusto, undaunted, robbed the passengers of about $25,000 and ordered the pilots to lower the plane to 6,500 feet.
When a lunatic with a gun orders you to descend, you descend. Meanwhile, Augusto strapped a homemade parachute onto his back, and forced the flight attendants to open the door and depressurize the plane.
He probably intended to jump, but the wind was so strong that he had trouble getting out of the plane. Finally one of the flight attendants helpfully pushed him out the door, just as he pulled the pin from the grenade. He threw the pin (oops!) into the cabin, and fell toward the earth carrying the business end of the grenade in his hand.
The impact of Augusto hitting the earth at terminal velocity had little effect on the earth’s orbit. All that remained aboveground were Augusto’s two hands.
So history repeats itself with a new twist.
1. Don’t throw yourself out of a perfectly good airplane.
2. If you feel compelled to violate Lesson 1, at least don’t roll your own… parachute, that is.