The Oien-Corbus Family

Here’s another incredible story that was recently discovered during research for the newly reopened Cedar Hills Pub. It is tragic, but also reveals the connection between the small, local Bernard Airport (site of today’s pub) and critical advances made to the global aviation industry at large.

“I had mostly forgotten about the story of the Oien family until I began regularly visiting your McMenamins Cedar Hills pub about 20 years ago. While having a beer and meal with friends and/or family, I would always look at the many aviation photos commemorating the Bernard Airport (which had operated on and around the site of the pub) and think about the Oiens and wish there was a photo of them on the wall and something to tell their story.
When I was a 15- or 16-year-old kid, I washed airplanes [at Bernard Airport] and begged for free rides. Mr. Oien never let me wash his aircraft, he was very particular. Mr. Oien’s plane was a beautiful Cessna 195. I still have a photo [shown] I took of the plane in 1966 when I printed a copy using my school photo lab to give to Mr. Oien. However, the airport manager who gave me my first flight lessons told me not to bother Mr. Oien. My memory of [his step-daughter] Carla is of a nice-looking girl about my age who read books while her dad did maintenance work on his aircraft.  When I talked to Carla for more than a moment one time, Mr. Oien told me leave her alone. . . . Funny how many years later I recalled that incident, and thought differently about it, when my daughter was 16 years old.” 
– John Hyde, 2017

The Oiens, a local Beaverton family who kept their Cessna airplane in a hangar at Bernard Airport, were involved in a terrible accident that spurred legislation making it mandatory for all U.S. civil aircraft to carry emergency locator transmitters (ELTs) onboard. Today, because of the Oien family incident, and the subsequent widespread use of ELTs, thousands of lives have been saved in search-and-rescue operations.

On Saturday, March 11, 1967, local pilot Alvin Oien, his wife Phyllis and step-daughter Carla (shown, at the Oiens’ wedding 9 years earlier in 1958) took off from the former Bernard Airport bound for San Francisco in Oien’s private aircraft. Carla, who was 15 at the time, didn’t want to go – she wanted to stay home with her boyfriend. But off they went.

Somewhere over the Trinity Mountains in northern California, the weather quickly turned and visibility went to zero. Despite Al being a seasoned, disciplined pilot, the plane went down in the snowy and rugged terrain somewhere near the Oregon-California border. Miraculously, while injured by the crash, the three occupants – Al, Phyllis and Carla – survived.

When the plane didn’t arrive at its intended destination, search aircrafts from the Air Force, Civil Air Patrol, Oregon Pilots’ Association and other air and land organizations were mobilized. For two weeks, trained personnel searched high and low for the missing aircraft – they found nothing.

The Oien family, however, remained hopeful, despite their injuries, the cold weather and scant rations that included two packs of sour mint drops, two packs of M&Ms, three small jars of jelly, some vitamins, toothpaste and milk-of-magnesia tablets. Incredibly, for two months and more, the three survived. Phyllis and her teenaged daughter Carla remained at the fuselage, writing a daily journal of their hopes, fears and questions about why a rescue never happened. Al ventured out on foot through the deep snow to find help, but never returned. Phyllis and Carla circled May 9, 1967, on their calendar, noting “…we probably lived longer than the calendar shows but were too weak to mark the date.”

Seven months after the crash, the airplane was discovered by a local hunter and his wife. Phyllis and Carla had not survived, but their journal and personal effects were found in the craft. Al’s location was never discovered.

For the entire story of the crash, the massive search-and-rescue effort and the resulting landmark aviation safety legislation, read Ross Nixon’s book Finding Carla (2016).


  1. Jason Albers on December 7, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    As a pilot, this is one story that I have never heard. Thank you for the interesting aviation history lesson.

  2. Tonya on December 8, 2017 at 3:32 am

    Wow 😔

  3. Valerie Ing on January 2, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    I live in the Redding area and just heard about this sad incident a few days ago. I was inspired to do some more research, and actually, Alvin Sr’s remains were eventually found, by another pair of hunters on September 23, 1969. He only made it about a mile before collapsing in the deep snow next to a log. He had letters that he’d written in his pockets and pens engraved with his name that helped identify him. Such a sad story with an odd silver lining, because their deaths ultimately saved the lives of thousands of future plane crash victims.

  4. Vi Li on May 5, 2021 at 9:53 am

    There is a 2017 book “Finding Carla” by Ross Nixon that describes the tragedy in detail

  5. Terry Nelson Hawks on October 25, 2021 at 5:15 pm

    Alvin Oien was a dear friend of my family when I was growing up in Harding County South Dakota. Alvin’s brother Percy and their mother were neighbors of ours. Alvin would fly to Harding County around Mother’s Day to visit his Mother. He never used an airport he would just land on the county dirt road right by the Oiens. One year he came to our country school and gave us kids a ride in his plane. I will never forget the day we heard about the accident. I believe Carla was my age which means she would have been 70 this year. RIP dear friends.

  6. Steve Gosney on October 27, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    I remember reading about this when I was a kid. I think that someone had even published what was written in the diary (but maybe I’m remembering that wrong?). I just ordered a copy of the Saturday Evening Post January 13th, 1968 edition. There is an article in there that I am hoping shows what was written in the diary. The story is just so sad. It did not have to end that way.

    • Kelly Franett on February 12, 2023 at 8:20 pm

      Alvin and was a cousin of mine. My mother introduced Carla’s mother Phyllis Corbus to Al Oien around the time Carla and I were seven or eight years old. It was a second marriage for both of them. I have many memories of Carla and Phyllis before and after she married Al and moved to Portland. Carla was an excellent student, very bright, fun and and an accomplished horse woman. We had many good times as children and young teenagers. Frankly, I’ve never been able to fully process this tragedy. They are all missed to this very day. I’m grateful to pilot Ross Nixon for all his work and research in writing his book ‘Finding Carla’. I’m glad something good came out of this that may have saved other lives in the following years.

  7. R. Godwin on November 22, 2023 at 7:54 pm

    The book is a great read. A very tragic and sad story.

    I’m curious how you came across the photo of them that you posted here? This exact photo is in Ross Nixons book.

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