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In March 1967, a Cessna 195 flew from Oregon towards San Francisco carrying a family of three: Alvin Oien, Sr. (the pilot), his wife Phyllis and step-daughter Carla Corbus. Due to worse-than-predicted weather, it went down in the Trinity Mountains of California only eight miles from a highway and beneath a busy commercial airway. This was before radio-beacon type emergency locators were required equipment for airplanes; the family survived the crash for almost two months but the ruggedness of the terrain and the fact that they were far off their intended course made finding them by sight impossible. Searchers determined the weather in the mountains also made living impossible after a period of time had passed.
Half a year later, the eventual finding of the wreck by hunters shocked the nation. A diary and series of letters from the survivors explained their predicament. These Oien family documents as well as photos of the family and from the search are included in the story.
This tragedy spurred political action towards the mandatory Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) that are carried aboard all U.S. civil aircraft. ELT radios have saved thousands of lives since they were mandated and their technology continues to improve and find more lost people. Pilots who read this story will never fly without a flight plan, survival gear, or a working ELT. In aviation, we say the regulations are "written in blood." This compelling story is the "blood" behind the ELT regulations.
While indeed tragic, the Oien family's legacy has a brighter side: Their story led directly to this effective legislation of requirements for the airplane locators that have since saved so many lives in search-and-rescue operations. Their complete story is now told for the first time -- the "Carla Corbus Diary" is uncovered here along with the family letters that accompanied it, never before published in full.
Finding Carla is Ross Nixon’s first book. His writing has appeared in Alaska Magazine. Born in Canada, he grew up in the United States on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where he learned to fly. He has worked as a commercial diver, a police officer and served in the U.S. Navy Seabees as a welder. He makes his living as a commercial pilot, what he really wanted to be doing all along. An Alaskan resident since 1989, he enjoys flying, reading and writing. He lives in Anchorage with his wife Kate and their two cats, Madge and Edith.
As a young boy, Ross Nixon became dimly aware of the Oien family tragedy, but at first as only an incomplete, overheard account while he worked on his own father's airplane which was the same model as the Oien family's. It all turned into a mystery he felt he had to solve. Driven by a compelling vision of Carla writing in a diary while waiting for help to come, that inspiration led him to research and write. Coincidences of life helped lead him to answers and finally, Finding Carla was a story Ross just had to tell.