On November 24, 1971, Northwest Airlines Flight 305 departed from Portland International Airport with a destination of Seattle, Washington. Among the passengers was a middle man who gave the ticket agent the name “Dan Cooper”. Minutes after takeoff he handed a note to a stewardess Flo Schaffner a note that he had a bomb in his briefcase. To prove his point, he had the suspicious flight attendant sit down next to him and opened the case for her viewing. Upon realizing that Cooper could in fact destroy the aircraft, authorities were alerted that a hijacking was taking place. After refueling in Seattle, the plane took off again but with $200,000 aboard as per Cooper’s instructions. Once airborne, Cooper had flight attendant Tina Mucklow show him how to operate the aft stairwell on the Boeing 727. Shortly after 8:00 p.m., the warning light went off in the cabin indicating that the aft stairwell had been deployed. When the plane landed in Reno, Nevada, Cooper was nowhere to be found. And to this day, his whereabouts are unknown. Or are they? And had D.B. Cooper been hiding in plain sight while the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) struggled to solve the case? Authors Skipp Porteous and Robert Blevins decided to examine the D.B. Cooper mystery and what they found is sure to catch the eye of even the most ardent supporters of the theory that the hijacker died after jumping from the aircraft.
The premise of the book is set early: the authors feel that they have solid reasons to believe that D.B. Cooper was Northwest Airlines employee Kenneth Peter Christiansen (1926-1994). And while they stop short of saying conclusively that Christiansen was in fact Cooper, they provide a significant amount of information about Christiansen and the investigation itself that leaves us with even more questions about what really did happen to Dan Cooper. It should be noted that there are no conspiracy theories here, just old fashioned investigative work, filled with sleeping in cars, long miles on the road aided by coffee and the tenacity to keep moving forward several decades after the hijacking. The authors make every attempt to cross-reference what they learn as their investigation moves forward. It is an incredible story that is certainly not over.
A biography of Christiansen is included but contains only the most relevant facts about his life as they relate to the investigation. In particular, focus is placed on his employment with Northwest Airlines and just how unpredictable a steady salary was for a flight attendant in small airline in the 1970s. The precarious nature of his choice of occupation surely is not enough for confirmation of guilt. However, his background in the military and as a mechanic should have made him a person of interest at the least. Curiously, the FBI never interviewed any employees of the airline. And as can be seen in the book, at least one of the people interviewed had suspicions that Christiansen might have been involved.
The similarities between Cooper and Christiansen are striking and the authors sum up their belief with this simple yet direct statement:
“If Kenny Christiansen were alive today, he would have difficulty explaining to a jury where he got all the money to do the things he did in the months following the taking of Flight 305. Christiansen, I discovered, had one life before the hijacking and another one afterward.”
In addition to Christiansen there are several people who enter the story that knew him personally. The FBI agent who was assigned to the case also gives his thoughts on the case but makes it clear that he is no longer involved. But of all of the figures in the book, none is as shadowy as Mike Watson (real name Bernie Geestman). And the information provided by his former wife Katy (real name Margie Geestman) reveal some very dark actions by Geestman whom the authors believe was Cooper’s accomplice. Added to the mix are the interviews of Dawn Androsko (Bernie Geestman’s sister) and Helen Jones. And what each has to say about Christiansen actually leads more credence to the authors’ theory. And while they always stop short of declaring for a fact that Christiansen is D.B. Cooper, the more they uncover, the more it seems that it most certainly was the case.
In January, 2011, the History Channel premiered Episode 6, Season 1 of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded which explored the Christiansen story. The episode is based largely on the book and can be found on YouTube here. It is a good episode and brings the crux of the book to light. The authors discuss the filming of the show and all that goes into a television production. We also see that the History Channel does not slack when it comes to fact finding. And while the show does not find concrete proof of the two men being one in the same, it is highly convincing and a great watch.
Undoubtedly there are many mysterious surrounding Dan Cooper that are lost to history. But the authors here make a compelling case against the man they believed pulled off on the history’s greatest capers that has earned a permanent place in American pop culture. This is the story of Dan Cooper, Kenneth Christiansen and an aircraft passenger’s jump into the blast.
ASIN : B004JF4JRM