Cottage Grove sentinel. (Cottage Grove, Or.) 1909-current, December 20, 2017, Page 4A, Image 4

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    4A COTTAGE GROVE SENTINEL DECEMBER 20, 2017
O PINION
Offbeat Oregon History: Oregon’s worst plane
By Finn JD John
For the Sentinel
When a commercial airliner crashes, it’s very
rare to have absolutely no idea what happened.
Even if the cockpit voice recorder is destroyed,
usually there are enough clues left at the scene to
piece together a picture of how the disaster came
about.
But every now and then, a crash happens that
offers a complete mystery — the aviation equiv-
alent of one of those derelict barnacle-crusted
sailing-ship hulls that used to drift ashore, empty
and lifeless, on the Oregon Coast, the story of its
crew’s demise forever unknown.
Such is the case with the worst airplane crash
in Oregon state history, as measured in lives
lost: The Oct. 1, 1966 crash of West Coast Air-
lines Flight 956, a brand-new Douglas DC-9 that
apparently drove, on autopilot, straight into the
side of a ridge near Mount Hood with 18 people
aboard.
There are a few theories that have been put for-
ward about what happened that night, and we’ll
look at them. But none of them can claim much
more than a 50-50 chance. In the end, the story of
Flight 956 remains a mystery.
West Coast Airlines was a small regional air-
line, best known for making short hops around
small airports like Bend and Eugene and Klamath
Falls using Fairchild F-27 turboprop planes. But
Flight 956 wasn’t one of those; it was a genuine
jet airliner, a Douglas DC-9, one of the fl agships
of the West Coast fl eet; and it was brand-new. The
airline quite literally bought it on Monday and
crashed it on Saturday. It had less than 170 hours
on it.
As was fi tting for one of the airline’s fl agships,
Flight 956 was making one of West Coast’s most
prestigious runs: from San Francisco to Seattle,
with stops at Eugene and Portland. It had left San
Francisco at 6:44 p.m.; touched down at Eugene
at 7:34; and was scheduled to land at PDX less
than an hour later.
At 7:52, pilot Donald Alldredge took off from
the Eugene airport and fl ew the jet up to 14,000
feet for the short fl ight to the outskirts of Portland.
Then, having been cleared to come to 9,000 feet,
he started a descent.
It’s at that point that the mysterious part hap-
pens. Because rather than leveling off at 9,000
feet as instructed, the jet continued its descent —
down to 4,000 feet, and below. But no one seems
to have noticed. The airplane continued following
directions from the tower, making turns and get-
ting ready for the approach as if it were cruising
along at 9,000. According to the fl ight data re-
corder, nothing changes until two seconds before
impact, when suddenly the plane starts a sharp
climb — either the pilot grabbed the yoke and
pulled back, or the autopilot (which was found to
be still engaged at impact) was reacting to some-
thing.
Five minutes later, having fruitlessly tried to get
the pilot on the radio several times, the tower ini-
tiated accident notifi cation procedures.
“I had him on my radar about 30 miles south-
east of Portland, and he was on an 080 course
(fl ying almost due east),” said air traffi c controller
W.R. Gibson, according to the Oregonian’s front-
page story on the crash. “I estimated his speed at
between 300 and 350 knots. I looked away from
the screen a minute while expanding my range to
50 miles, and I never saw him again.”
The jet lanced into the side of a ridge about four
miles south of Welches at full cruising speed —
close to 400 miles an hour — shearing off the tops
of trees before hitting the ground and disappear-
ing into a giant fi reball. The wreckage was 3,830
feet up a 4,090-foot ridge, and had probably been
as low as 3,500 feet.
So: What happened? Your guess is as good as
the National Transportation Safety Board’s.
“A correlation of communications with the
fl ight and the fl ight recorder trace reveals that all
clearances and instructions were received, under-
stood, and complied with, except the altitude re-
striction of 9,000 feet,” the accident report notes,
with almost palpable puzzlement.
The cockpit voice recorder was melted in the
fi re, so there can be no help from that quarter. The
fl ight data recorder shows nothing but calm, un-
hurried preparations for a routine landing — ev-
ery detail professionally and competently execut-
ed, but at an altitude 5,500 feet below the assigned
one.
“The board concludes that the reason for the
aircraft being permitted by the crew to descend
below the assigned altitude is unknown,” the re-
port concludes.
There are a few guesses at what might have
happened; but none of them are more than spec-
ulation.
One theory is that the crew overheard an in-
struction to another fl ight coincidentally also
numbered 956, coming into Seattle, to descend to
4,000 feet, and complied. But this theory can liter-
ally be dismissed out of hand. There is no record
of the fl ight crew acknowledging an instruction to
drop to 4,000, as there is of every other instruction
given to them that night; and with three veteran
jet pilots in the cockpit — all of whom were fa-
miliar with the terrain around PDX, which gets
very steep very quickly on the eastern perimeter
— there is just no way such a dangerous order
would have been complied with without at least a
request for clarifi cation.
By the same token, we can safely assume that
the pilot would not have fl own into PDX at 4,000
feet on purpose. If we make that assumption —
and if we set aside the “X Theories” such as a hi-
jacking, a super-precise lightning strike, an alien
abduction, etc. — there are really only two pos-
sibilities: Either a piece of equipment malfunc-
tioned (such as the altimeter or the autopilot); or
the crew was distracted from it by some unknown
crisis in the cockpit and failed to pay attention to
the altimeter.
But, of course, we’ll never really know.
This plane crash was the worst in Oregon histo-
ry, with a total death toll of 18 souls — 13 passen-
gers and fi ve crew members. It could, of course,
have been much, much worse; the basic DC-9 can
hold up to 109 people, although more typically
they seat 70 to 90 plus crew.
It was the fi rst fatal plane crash in the 20-year
history of West Coast Airlines — although, un-
fortunately, not the last. It was also the fi rst DC-9
crash in all of aviation history; the fi rst DC-9
had gone into service with Delta Airlines just 10
months before, in December 1965.
The crash site is remote and rugged, but can be
reached on a day hike. The plane is broken into
tiny fragments, some of it still melted and discol-
ored by the heat.
Dr. Fuhrman: Is protein the key to weight loss?
By Joel Fuhrman, MD
For The Sentinel
We are all taught that protein is a super nutrient that will make
us lean, strong and healthy. We do need protein, but more is not
necessarily better, and high-protein foods are not always healthful.
In every cell in the human body, the DNA contains a code that
tells the cell which proteins to make. Proteins have a lot of differ-
ent roles in the body; some provide structure like collagen, some
facilitate contact or movement, and others act as enzymes, signals,
receptors, or transporters. In order to make all of these proteins,
we have to consume protein and break it down into its constituent
amino acids.
High-protein foods do tend to be low in glycemic load. This is
what the high-protein, low-carb diets get right. They avoid danger-
ous high-glycemic refi ned carbohydrates—sugar, white rice and
white fl our products. In the process, they also limit dangerous trans
fats. It is important to remember though, just like excess carbohy-
drate and fat calories, if you take in more protein calories than your
body can use right away, those calories get stored as fat.
Refi ned carbohydrates are empty calories that are absorbed
quickly, and they lead to overeating. Foods that are higher in pro-
tein, fi ber, and/or resistant starch provide the satiety factor that is
missing in refi ned carbohydrates and help to prevent blood glucose
spikes, so we are not driven to overeat. High protein diets can be
successful for weight loss in the short-term, but because they are
so focused on animal foods, they are dangerous in the long-term.
Low-carbohydrate/high-protein diets have been linked to increased
risk of heart disease, cancer and premature death.
Although plant protein is often described as “incomplete,” it has
been known for many years that all plant foods contain all of the
amino acids. Different plant foods may be low in a certain essential
amino acid, but as long you are eating a variety of plant foods and
taking in an adequate number of calories, you will get adequate
amounts—but not too much—of all the essential amino acids.
Animal protein and plant protein both provide us with adequate
amounts of all of the amino acids, but animal protein is more con-
centrated in the essential amino acids, and for this reason animal
protein increases the body’s production of a hormone called IGF-1,
which is associated with aging and an increased risk of several dif-
ferent cancers. One interesting study followed over 85,000 women
and 44,000 men for more than 20 years, (26 years in women and
20 years in men) recording over 12,500 deaths. This research team
found animal protein-rich diets were associated with a 23 percent
increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer,
whereas plant protein-rich diets were associated with a 20 percent
decreased risk. In addition to animal protein, a diet high in animal
products delivers additional harmful, pro-infl ammatory or pro-ox-
idant substances. Animal foods are higher in arachidonic acid, sat-
urated fat, carnitine and choline, heme iron, substances linked to
disease pathologies, which should be minimized for good health.
The number of grams of protein humans need in a day has been
estimated at .8g/kg/day (about 36 grams of protein per 100 pounds
of body weight). However, it is not important to count the number
of grams of protein in the food you eat to make sure you reach this
number. If you are eating adequate calories and a variety of foods, it
is almost impossible to consume too little protein. For a typical day,
a Nutritarian menu of 1700-1800 calories provides approximately
60-70 grams of protein. The point is that when you eat an anti-can-
cer diet to promote longevity, you strive to consume more colorful
plants, reducing animal protein considerably. It is both these fea-
tures that lead to the dramatic disease-protective lifespan benefi ts.
Eat a high-nutrient (Nutritarian) diet, and forget about protein, you
will automatically get the right amount.
Dr. Fuhrman is a #1 New York Times best-selling author and a
family physician specializing in lifestyle and nutritional medicine.
Visit his informative website at DrFuhrman.com. Submit your ques-
tions and comments about this column directly to newsquestions@
drfuhrman.com. The full reference list for this article can be found
at DrFuhrman.com.
C ottage G rove
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