iPhone sucked out of Alaska Airlines plane found still working after 16K-foot fall

Click to play video: 'Door which flew off Alaska Airlines plane mid-flight found in Oregon backyard'
Door which flew off Alaska Airlines plane mid-flight found in Oregon backyard
The missing door plug from an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 has been found two days after the panel tore off the aircraft mid-flight, forcing pilots to make an emergency landing, authorities said Sunday. Investigations also revealed the cockpit voice recorder had been overwritten by the time of the crash – Jan 8, 2024

A curious citizen out on a Sunday stroll says he found an intact iPhone — still in perfect working condition — that appears to have been sucked out of Alaska Airlines Flight 1282, which suffered a catastrophic failure to its fuselage on Friday.

Approximately six minutes into the Alaska Airlines flight a plug covering an unused exit door blew off of the Boeing 737 Max 9. At that point, the plane had climbed to about 16,000 feet (4.8 kilometres). Videos posted online by passengers showed a gaping hole where the panelled-over door had been.

The plane managed to safely land back in Portland, Ore., where it took off, after only 13 minutes in the air. None of the 171 passengers and six crew members were seriously injured. The plane was supposed to fly to Ontario, Calif.

Click to play video: 'Alaska Airlines forced to make emergency landing after section blows out mid-air'
Alaska Airlines forced to make emergency landing after section blows out mid-air

A few days after the incident, Washington resident Sean Bates said he “wanted an excuse to go on a walk” and learned that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was appealing to the public to report anything that may have fallen from the plane when the door blew off.

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Before long, he found something miraculous.

“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,” Bates wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Survived a 16,000 foot drop perfectly in tact [sic]!”

Bates included photos of the iPhone, which appeared to be without a scratch, as well as pictures of a person wearing an NTSB jacket examining the device. Bates was told by the NTSB that the iPhone was the second phone to be found.

Screengrab of a social media post showing photos of an iPhone that appears to have fallen from Alaska Airlines flight 1282. X/SeanSafyre

In a follow-up post, Bates noted that the phone still had a broken-off piece of an iPhone charger stuck in its port.

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“Thing got *yanked* out the door,” Bates wrote.

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A small piece of the iPhone’s charger was still stuck inside the port when it was found. X/SeanSafyre

The NTSB confirmed in a press conference that two cellphones appearing to belong to passengers of the ill-fated flight were found and turned in to the agency. One was discovered in a yard and the other was found on the side of the road. The NTSB has vowed to return the devices to their owners.

Bates said that he was “a little skeptical at first” after finding the iPhone along the side of Barnes Road in Portland. He believed it could have been thrown or dropped by a passing motorist, he explained in a TikTok video.

“It was still pretty clean, no scratches on it, sitting under a bush,” he said. “And it didn’t have a screen lock on it, so I opened it up and it was in airplane mode with travel confirmation and baggage claim for Alaska 1282.”

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The plug that was covering the unused exit door was also found in Portland, in the backyard of a schoolteacher named Bob.

A gaping hole where the paneled-over door had been on Alaska Airlines Flight 1282. National Transportation Safety Board via AP

The chair of the NTSB, Jennifer Homendy, said it was extremely lucky that the airplane had not yet reached cruising altitude when the door blew off, as passengers and flight attendants may have been walking around the cabin.

Homendy added that the NTSB will examine the door plug, which measures about 66 by 121 centimetres and weighs approximately 28.5 kilograms, to investigate how it broke free.

Click to play video: 'Alaska Airlines plane’s auto pressurization fail light had illuminated on 3 previous flights: NTSB'
Alaska Airlines plane’s auto pressurization fail light had illuminated on 3 previous flights: NTSB

Hours after the incident, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered the grounding of 171 of the 218 Boeing 737 Max 9s in operation, including all those used by Alaska Airlines and United Airlines, until they can be inspected.

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Alaska Airlines, which has 65 Max 9s, and United, with 79, are the only U.S. airlines to fly that particular model of Boeing’s workhorse 737.

Without the use of these planes, cancellations have begun to mount at the two carriers. Alaska Airlines said it had cancelled 170 flights — more than one-fifth of its schedule — by mid-afternoon on the west coast because of the groundings, while United had scrapped about 180 flights while salvaging others by finding different planes.

Boeing declined to comment.

The Max is the newest version of Boeing’s venerable 737, a twin-engine, single-aisle plane frequently used on U.S. domestic flights. The plane went into service in May 2017.

Two Max 8 jets crashed in 2018 and 2019, killing 346 people. All Max 8 and Max 9 planes were grounded worldwide for nearly two years until Boeing made changes to an automated flight control system implicated in the crashes.

The Max has been plagued by other issues, including manufacturing flaws, concern about overheating that led the FAA to tell pilots to limit the use of an anti-ice system, and a possible loose bolt in the rudder system.

— With files from The Associated Press

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