54 Years ago today: On 1 October 1966 a West Coast Airlines DC-9-14 descended below cleared altitude and impacted a mountainside near Wemme, Oregon, killing all 18 occupants (1st fatal DC-9 accident)

Date:     Saturday 1 October 1966

Time:    20:10

Type:   Douglas DC-9-14

Operator:           West Coast Airlines

Registration:      N9101

C/n / msn:          45794/52

First flight:         1966

Total airframe hrs:          164

Engines:             2 Pratt & Whitney JT8D-1

Crew:    Fatalities: 5 / Occupants: 5

Passengers:        Fatalities: 13 / Occupants: 13

Total:    Fatalities: 18 / Occupants: 18

Aircraft damage:             Destroyed

Aircraft fate:      Written off (damaged beyond repair)

Location:            9 km (5.6 mls) S of Wemme, OR (   United States of America)

Crash site elevation:       1167 m (3829 feet) amsl

Phase:   En route (ENR)

Nature: Domestic Scheduled Passenger

Departure airport:          Eugene Airport, OR (EUG/KEUG), United States of America

Destination airport:        Portland International Airport, OR (PDX/KPDX), United States of America

Flightnumber:    956


West Coast Flight 956 departed San Francisco (SFO) at 18:44 for a flight to Eugene (EUG), Portland (PDX) and Seattle (SEA). The brand new DC-9 aircraft, which had been delivered to West Coast Airlines just 2 weeks earlier, arrived at Eugene at 19:34 and took off again 18 minutes later. At 20:04 the crew were cleared to descend from the cruising altitude of FL140 to 9000 feet. While turning to heading 300deg, the aircraft descended below the clearance altitude and impacted the wooded eastern slope of Salmon Mountain at the 3830 feet level. The aircraft attitude was 30 degrees right bank, in a 3-4 degree climbing flight path on a heading of 265 degrees.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: “The descent of the aircraft below its clearance limit and below that of surrounding obstructing terrain, but the Board had been unable to determine the cause of such descent.”