Searching for Lost Aircraft Wreckage in the Oregon Woods

The Navion A had iced wings when it made the turn back to Eugene, Oregon. Rounding the 4,100 peak called Green Peter, it clipped a tree and scattered debris over 1,000 feet coming to rest at 3,500 feet, on the Northeast side of the mountain.

All four passengers – a family with the father as the pilot, died. 

Almost 48 years later, armed with loose coordinates, rescue team reports and the knowledge of a search and rescue pilot, we’re crashing through dense Rhododendron and spruce, hoping to run across any piece of the plane, preferably the fuselage and cockpit. 

The greater reason for the interest? A story of the wealthy family and their plane, a couple of lost guns, and a page reported to have had $25,000 in cash. 

As the story goes, some local loggers found the wreckage, and the guns, the money, and another item: a US Marshal’s badge, which was a family heirloom. And we know all this because the grandson of the deceased pilot contacted an Oregon man hoping to learn more about how to get the guns and the badge back.

Recently, he got one of the guns back: a Walther PPK. The Oregon man had purchased it from a man who also had the other gun, and the badge. He said he’d found them in his family’s attic, and that his dad, a logger, had put them there.

This is the stuff of legend. And a fantastic reason to dig out the adventure gear and search for the wreckage on a misty and rain soaked hillside in Oregon.

Finding old aircraft wrecks in the woods is the terra version of diving for shipwrecks. Each one has a story, it’s usually interesting and possibly full of tall tales, but the lure is undeniable. Up on Mount Baldy in Northern Arizona, for example, there’s an almost perfectly preserved fuselage and cockpit of a twin engine craft that went down in the 1950’s. Hiking up there is beautiful, and the wreckage is eerie. It’s a great reason to go up there.

Of course, a lot of wrecks are remote, lost, or almost impossible to find, which only adds to the intrigue. In Oregon alone, there are dozens and dozens of sites that would make for a great mini expedition, and certainly the most interesting story at the bar later in the week.