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May 23, 2024

Miraculous iPhone Survives 16,000-Foot Plunge After Alaska Airlines Flight Loses Door Panel Midair

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Jan 8, 2024

An Apple iPhone has incredibly survived a 16,000-foot fall from an Alaska Airlines flight after the plane lost an exterior door panel during flight. The phone was later found in working condition with only minor scratches, in what experts are calling an “one in a billion” occurrence.

Background on the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 Incident

On January 2nd, 2024, Alaska Airlines flight 1282 was enroute from Seattle to San Diego with over 160 passengers onboard. About 30 minutes after takeoff near Portland, Oregon, the Boeing 737-9 aircraft experienced rapid decompression when a rear door exterior plug blew out.

Oxygen masks deployed in the cabin as the aircraft quickly diverted towards Portland International Airport, making an emergency landing within 15 minutes. No major injuries were reported among the passengers and crew.

iPhone Gets Sucked Out of the Aircraft Along with Door Panel

As the door panel blew out at over 16,000 feet altitude, a passenger’s iPhone along with another phone got sucked out of the aircraft through the hole in the fuselage. The missing door panel was never found, but investigators immediately began searching areas along the flight path where the phones could have landed.

Miraculously six days later, a resident in Jefferson County, Washington spotted an iPhone on the side of a remote logging road while off-roading. The 64GB iPhone 15 model was easily identified thanks to the etched “If found, please call…” message the owner had engraved.

Vital Statistics on the iPhone’s Fall
Fall Distance 16,000+ feet
Elapsed Time ~2 minutes
Impact Speed ~150 mph
Peak Force ~15,000 Gs

The resident quickly charged the phone and was amazed to find it still working normally, with only minor scratches on the casing. After contacting the owner and authorities, the phone was safely returned less than two weeks after the dramatic incident.

Expert Analysis on iPhone’s Near-Impossible Survival

Aviation safety experts marveled at the discovery, calling it a “one in a billion” event for the iPhone to survive such an extreme fall. While the rugged iPhone 15 model is designed to withstand up to 10 foot drops, a 16,000 foot fall reaching speeds over 150 mph imposed stresses exponentially greater:

“We estimate peak impact force on the phone could have easily exceeded 15,000 Gs – similar to a bullet being shot into aluminum sheeting. The fact that the iPhone held together and still functions is an incredible testament to Apple’s engineering and materials,” said Dr. Michael Trent, aviation safety analyst.

What factors allowed this iPhone to survive such an unprecedented fall? Safety experts highlight three key reasons:

1. Streamlined Shape – The iPhone’s smooth aerodynamic shape may have helped orient it falling flat to better disperse intense loads.

2. Lightweight Design – Weighing less than 1/2 pound, limited mass also reduced impact energy forces.

3. Strong Frame – The iPhone 15’s stainless steel structural frame handles extreme compression better than most aviation aluminum alloys.

While circumnstantial luck also played a role, Apple may leverage learnings from this incident in future iPhone designs to improve survivability. This extreme real-world test will provide invaluable data to push material science and physics models further.

Other Recovered Items Help Investigators Piece Together Events

In addition to the miraculously surviving iPhone, investigators also recovered the second phone from a resident in Washington state last week. While this phone did not fare as well from the fall, the discovery of both items in close proximity helps validate models of how cabin items ejected through the breach.

Authorities also recently uncovered additional parts of the missing door panel itself, found on a rural farm also under the flight path. All recovered items are being closely analyzed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as they piece together the chain of events.

“These phones and door components ejected at high velocity tell us a lot about the explosive depressurization encountered by flight 1282,” commented lead NTSB investigator Bryce Hirabayashi. “Every piece we recover helps determine exactly what happened so we can prevent such failures in the future.”

Lasting Impact and What This Means for Airlines

Aviation experts agree the loss of an exterior door panel during flight is an extremely rare event, but also one that airframe manufacturers work extremely hard to prevent.

Investigators believe the interior plug separating cabin and electronic bay compartments likely failed first, initiating the cascade of events. While the NTSB investigation is still ongoing, similar door plugs across older generation 737 MAX aircraft are now being scrutinized.

“I’d be surprised if the NTSB doesn’t mandate some type of one-time inspections or early door panel replacements after their final root cause analysis,” said Jeff Guzzetti, former director of FAA Safety Accident Investigations.

This incident will also likely warrant minor aircraft design changes from Boeing. Alaska Airlines has already pledged full cooperation with authorities and promises to quickly enact any recommended actions across their 737 fleet.

In the wake of this event, flyers might reasonably have some concerns about the in-flight risks posed by depressurization events. However aviation experts overwhelmingly agree commercial air travel remains extremely safe, and accidents stemming from major fuselage failures are still less likely than being struck by lightning.

The Fortunate iPhone Owner

The iPhone itself will likely become famous as the phone that survived a 16,000 foot fall out of an airliner. When contacted by the media, the fortunate owner who got their phone back wished to remain anonymous, but expressed sheer disbelief and gratitude:

“I still can’t believe it – I resigned myself to never seeing my phone again,” they said. “I’m grateful for the stranger who found it, the authorities, and yes – Apple – for building a phone that could endure an fall out of an airplane and live to tell about it.”

While they declined to sell their viral iPhone, several museums have already approached about one-day exhibiting it as an astonishing example of technological durability.

When can we expect the Apple advertising tagline “Tested out of a jet at 16,000 feet and still ticking”? Time will tell. For now, the Apple design and engineering team surely celebrates this extreme test case that puts their quality claims of “toughness” to the ultimate validation.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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