If you pay attention to world news, then you probably know about Alaska Airlines flight 1282. While climbing to its cruising altitude on a US domestic flight between Portland, Oregon, and Ontario, California, a panel in the fuselage of the Boeing 737 Max 9 plane simply blew off causing a loss of cabin pressure and a lot of things simply being thrown out into the air.
One of those things was an iPhone that was recovered by Seanathan Bates, a game designer and .NET application developer. He found it on the side of a road while taking a walk, and then of course proceeded to hand it over to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the incident.
Found an iPhone on the side of the road… Still in airplane mode with half a battery and open to a baggage claim for #AlaskaAirlines ASA1282 Survived a 16,000 foot drop perfectly in tact!
When I called it in, Zoe at @NTSB said it was the SECOND phone to be found. No door yet😅 pic.twitter.com/CObMikpuFd
— Seanathan Bates (@SeanSafyre) January 7, 2024
The phone had an email from Alaska Airlines about a baggage receipt for flight 1282. Oh, and a broken-off charging plug – the force of the panel blowout simply ripped the cable apart. But, the iPhone is fine.
Now, we’ve seen a lot of drop tests during our time. But none like this – this iPhone survived being basically shot out of an airplane that was at about 16,000 feet at that moment – that’s almost 5,000 m altitude. And it fell to the ground, and it’s fine. We’re pretty sure Apple would never use this incident as advertising (after all, the ethics are highly questionable), but when it comes to “durability”, we can’t think of anything that would top this.
In case you’re wondering how a random fuselage panel can just blow out in mid-air like this, it turns out it’s not a random panel. For the same airplane model (Boeing 737 Max 9), some airlines other than Alaska Airlines order theirs with more seating. More seating means a legal requirement for more emergency exit doors, and this is exactly the position where one of those would have been.
For airlines that don’t have so many seats that there needs to be an additional emergency exit door over there (like Alaska Airlines), Boeing’s cost effective solution was to replace the door with a permanent plug. This is what blew out, and it doesn’t seem like a coincidence at all. Of course, the NTSB’s investigation has only just started, so let’s see what the results will be.
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