Mistress of the Mix: Silver Linings

It's not often, I think, that one could find a silver lining in something as tragic as a plane crash. But today, I reckon to do just that.

For this story, we're going back to March 11, 1967. A small private plane, a single engine Cessna, took off from an airfield in Portland, Oregon. On board was 54-year-old Alvin Oien Sr., his wife Phyllis, and his teenage stepdaughter. And then it disappeared.

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Valerie Ing
Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
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7 Responses

  1. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    I do remember that news item about the plane crash. I was 10 when that happened and it’s stuck with me all these years, wondering why they couldn’t be found. Last summer we had to drive between Humboldt and Redding via Highways 3 and 36… looking across the wide expanse of wilderness, I realized how very vast that area is. A sad story.

  2. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    It can be incredibly difficult to find a downed aircraft from the air, and that’s especially true in mountainous, wooded regions. The mandatory installation of emergency locator transmitters have led to many survivors of aircraft crashes being rescued. “Silver lining” indeed.

  3. Adrienne Jacoby Adrienne Jacoby says:

    What a bitter-sweet story . . . but most certainly a cautionary tale to each of us and our view on life.
    I Loved that you included Chet Baker and Ella, but when I think of the song, “Look for the Silver Lining” all I can hear in my head is a scratchy old recording of Al Jolson warbling his way through it. I must have been imprinted with that one early in life!
    I have no titles to add to your list . . . . gimme a minute . . . .
    Thanks again for a fun listening list.

  4. Jon Lewis Jon Lewis says:

    Thanks for sharing, Val. I’m a nut for anything aviation-related so I enjoyed that retelling. I interviewed a longtime west coast pilot (for an Enjoy magazine story on the 100-year anniversary of airmail) and he was in awe of the pioneering biplane pilots of old. A quick excerpt: “Imagine flying from Redding to Portland, at night, in December. It just makes my skin crawl,” he (Addison Pemberton) says. The stretch through the Cascade Range, from Shasta Lake to Roseburg, Ore., known as “the squeeze,” proved to be particularly treacherous. “Hundreds of airplanes were scraped off of those hills in the ‘30s and ‘40s,” Pemberton says. “It was pretty scary, but those airmail pilots were slugging it out day and night. And all that infrastructure has morphed into what we have today.”

  5. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    I hadn’t heard that story. My employees work in remote areas, often many miles from the nearest road. They carry satellite transmitters. The older and more primitive ones only have three message options: (1) Crew #X is okay. (2) Need help-nobody hurt. (3) Need emergency rescue. (The newer models allow you to send custom text messages.)

    All three messages show the coordinates of the transmitter/crew, easily launched in Google Earth (which I often look at for the pleasure of being jealous of the crew when I see their location). Our crews are required to send the first message at the end of each day, wherever they’re camped. The second message sends us scrambling—once from Redding to the most remote area of NE Nevada. The third message launches whatever local emergency services are available in the area—generally a Sheriff’s Department search and rescue team. Thankfully, we’ve never had to use that last one.

    Two relevant Drive-By Truckers songs come to mind, from a concept album called “Southern Rock Opera” loosely based on a famous rock band’s airplane crash. The first is the rollicking “Shut Up and Get On the Plane.” The second the haunting “Angels and Fuselage.”

  6. Tim says:

    Planes still get lost in rugged terrain. In 2007 a wealthy adventurer named Steve Fossett went missing on a flight from Barron Hilton’s ranch in Nevada. An unprecedented Civil Air Patrol search followed, as well as an additional fleet of private pilots hired by Hilton. Google and Amazon even teamed up to release brand new satellite images in an attempt to crowdsource the search for the missing aviator. 50,000 people participated online.

    Ironically, Fossett’s fame & connections may have done more harm than good. The CAP was overwhelmed with reports from internet sleuths sure that each old hunk of metal in the Nevada desert was the crash site. Pyschics called in from around the world. Little/no attention was paid to an actual eyewitness reporting he saw a plane struggling to climb while hiking in the Sierra Nevadas – on the opposite end of the focused search in the Nevada desert.

    A year later another hiker found $1,000 cash and Fossett’s pilot credentials near that witness’ report in the Sierra Nevadas. A renewed air search located the burned plane and a ground search would later find a few human bones a half mile from the wreckage. Officially Fossett died on impact, but the former eagle scout was known for survival skills. While his remains had ultimately been scattered by wildlife, his cash and clothing were not charred suggesting that he at least made it out of the plane before it burned.

    The NTSB would later find the plane’s radar trace and compared the route against weather conditions. Using the historic weather data at nearby peaks, they modeled 300 ft/s downdrafts in the crash area (at that elevation Fossett’s plane had a maximum climb rate of 300 ft/s) — matching the eyewitness description of a plane struggling to climb.

    While Google and Amazon took some flak for their attempt at crowdsourcing, internet searchers did find 8 other previously unreported plane wrecks. One of those wrecks is believed to be a California businessman who went missing in 1964, but there have been no attempts at ground searches for 7 of the 8 crash sites.

  7. Janine Hall says:

    This brings back memories of couple of scary flights. My Ex was a most amazing pilot. But as the saying goes, there are old pilots, bold pilots, but no old bold pilots. I was scared to fly into a black cloud just coming into Redding. I kept my mouth shut and let him do what he had to do. A most amazing landing in a cross wind at the main airport in driving rain. I will never forget that.
    I am so glad you found a wonderful Veterinarian and your silver lining.

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