IPhone survives 16,000-foot fall from Alaska Air flight

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Among the harrowing details of the blown-off fuselage panel that triggered a sudden decompression event on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, one revelation seemed to defy the laws of physics: One of the mobile phones that had been sucked out of the Boeing Co. 737 Max 9 jet’s cabin remained in functioning condition after a 16,000-foot tumble.

A new-generation Apple Inc. iPhone landed intact, unlocked and with hours of battery life remaining on a Portland, Oregon roadside, according to a post on X by a user calling himself Seanathan Bates, who said he discovered the device. The screen showed an email from Alaska Airlines about a baggage claim for the flight, based on Bates’ photos.

The phone was in airplane mode, Bates said in a TikTok video. “It was still pretty clean, no scratches on it, sitting under a bush and it didn’t have a screenlock on it,” he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed at a briefing on Sunday that one phone was found on the side of a road and another in a yard. The people have handed in both of the devices, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy told reporters.

“We’ll look through those and then return them” to passengers, Homendy said. “It also helps in telling us, ‘Are we looking in the right area?”‘

Bates couldn’t be reached for comment. The NTSB had no immediate comment. ABC News reported earlier that the NTSB confirmed Bates’s account.

The fuselage panel that blew off the plane was later discovered in the backyard of a Portland-based schoolteacher.

Apple says on its website that iPhone or its battery can be damaged if dropped. In this case, the only part that appeared broken in Bates’ post was the charger cord; even the screen was intact. The end of the cord was still plugged into the phone, but the rest of the cable was detached.

Flight 1282 was forced to turn back minutes after takeoff, when the panel broke loose from the fuselage. None of the 171 passengers aboard the Max 9 jet was seriously injured. It landed safely back in Portland about 20 minutes after takeoff, having reached more than 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) in altitude before turning around.

The US Federal Aviation Administration temporarily grounded more than 170 Max 9 aircraft to conduct safety checks before they are returned to service.

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