D.B. Cooper -The Bomb and What the FBI Withheld on it

no6-a-cells-x4When the F.B.I. or any law enforcement agency investigates a major crime, one of the things they do is to hold back a known fact or two from the public. They do this to weed out false confessors to the crime, or to eliminate (or confirm) suspects. The D.B. Cooper hijacking case was no different. It has recently come to light that the F.B.I. decided to hold back a key bit of evidence about the bomb the hijacker used to force Northwest Airlines to hand over $200,000 in cash and four parachutes.

Over the last forty-six years, only four things have ever been revealed about the bomb itself. First, that it was housed in a briefcase. Second, that there was a battery inside similar to the one in the picture. Third, that there were wires attached to both the battery and the bomb. Fourth, that the bomb was composed of red sticks. This last bit originated from stewardess Florence Schaffner, who was allowed a quick glance inside the briefcase. Schaffner was passed a note from the hijacker shortly after takeoff from Portland, OR that read:

Miss. I have a bomb here and I would like you to sit by me.

As soon as Schaffner did as she was told, the hijacker opened the briefcase for a quick moment. She later told the flight crew what she saw. Red sticks, lots of wires, and a battery bigger than one you would put into a flashlight. That’s been the story for several decades now, although FBI agent Ralph Himmelsbach has said occasionally that he was sure the bomb was phony because dynamite sticks are generally tan in color, and not red.

Red sticks. Could they have been road flares? The problem with road flares isn’t that they are red. It’s that they have an ignitor on one end, and a lot of instructions printed on the outside. Even a stewardess who only got a quick look would be able to tell the ‘dynamite’ was phony. So if they weren’t dynamite, and they weren’t road flares, then how could they pass for a real explosive? If the F.B.I. had even a clue that the bomb was a phony, they probably would have stormed Flight 305 right on the tarmac after it reached Seattle. But something created doubt in their minds about the whole thing, and somehow they assumed the bomb could be real, even if the alleged dynamite was the wrong color.

The answer was both simple – and a brilliant move by the hijacker. He not only fooled the F.B.I. and the flight crew, but the bomb itself had a purpose beyond just being a bomb.

It was a key part of the hijacker’s escape plan.
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D.B. Cooper – Cartoons on Alleged Accomplice Bernie Geestman

weddingtimesthreeBernie Geestman, a guy who lives in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains of Washington State, is the man alleged by Adventure Books of Seattle as being the main accomplice in the D.B. Cooper hijacking. We believe he not only supplied the vehicle used to take Cooper suspect Kenny Christiansen to the Portland Airport, but provided key information regarding the Boeing 727 that was hijacked by Cooper. His story has already been told at length. He and Kenny served together on Shemya Island in the Aleutians for Northwest Airlines for a few years. Basically, Bernie was the mechanic and Kenny his assistant. They oiled the planes, cleaned out the interiors, and did occasional repairs if needed. Kenny’s job was mostly the labor stuff, and Bernie was the boss.

I only interviewed Bernie Geestman once in person. I showed up on his doorstep one day and got thirty minutes from him. In order not to put him on the defensive, I told him at first I was there gathering information on his friend Kenny for a biography on Kenny’s life. Geestman bought into that fib for twenty-five out of thirty minutes. He went on about their friendship, working for all those years off and on for Northwest, and some of the things they had done together.

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D.B. Cooper: Book on Christiansen Optioned for Feature Film

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Depending on your attitude or opinion on whether Ken Christiansen and Bernie Geestman were the actual perps in the D.B. Cooper hijacking, you might be ecstatic and wish us well…or hope I accidentally fall off a cliff on one of those camping trips to the Olympic Mountains I do occasionally. (We have our detractors, as well as our supporters.)

Yes, it’s true that a Los Angeles-based film production company has picked up the option for our book, Into The Blast – The True Story of D.B. Cooper. It’s the story of Kenny Christiansen, a former US Army paratrooper and an employee of the airline that was hijacked by Cooper. This doesn’t mean they will actually bring the book to market in a picture, of course. That remains to be seen. However, here’s how it all came about and where it’s going now –

About two weeks ago, I received an email from three people at the same time. They wanted to make sure any reply I made went to all of them. They told me they had been following me (and the investigation into KC) for quite a while and wondered whether the film rights to the book were still available. I said yes, but I also warned them that I wasn’t interested in doing a comedy on the Cooper story, or Kenny’s life, and that I had rejected a previous offer over that same point. (The inquiry by CBS Films, via their rep at Paradigm in New York City.)

The three men were execs from the LA film company, and came back with a message right away.

No, they said. They were not looking to do a comedy, but the first serious feature film on the DB Cooper case. And they wanted to name Kenny Christiansen as the hijacker, and present it not as a theory, but as historical fact. This surprised me, because I have stated many times for the record that I can’t be 100% sure Kenny and Bernie were the perps. Yes, I believe they are guilty as sin. Could I prove it today beyond a reasonable doubt? Maybe…if I had Bernie Geestman and a few other folks on a witness stand somewhere. Maybe.

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