iPhone Fell 16,000 Feet from Plane Still Working, How It Survive? Expert Revealed


An iPhone was discovered still operational after it fell from an airplane at an altitude of 16,000 feet. Sean Bates found the mobile phone on the roadside near a forest in Oregon, USA.

It was a shock to him when he learned that it had fallen from an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9, which had its door plug detached while airborne on January 5, 2024. The pilots were forced to make an emergency landing due to the incident, as the plane was supposed to be in route from Oregon to California.

The emergency landing was successfully executed, and there were no reported injuries among the 178 passengers and flight crew on board. The Alaska Airlines plane had to make an emergency landing after its sealed and plugged door blew out.


Due to the force of the wind when the door plug was detached, several items, including an iPhone, were sucked out of the airplane. Sean, a resident of Oregon, shared the discovery on X (formerly known as Twitter), saying, “And I found a phone sitting on the side of the road that had apparently fallen 16,000 feet.” Initially, Sean doubted it, especially since the iPhone was still functional.

According to Sean in a CNN report, “I was, of course, a little skeptical at first. I was just thinking this could just be thrown out of a car, [or] someone dropped it while they were driving. But I found it was still pretty clean, no scratches on it, sitting under a bush. And it didn’t have a screen lock on it. So I opened it up, and it was in airplane mode with a travel confirmation and baggage claim for Alaska 1282.”

Sean Bates (foreground) with two National Transportation Safety Board staff crew members inspecting the location where the iPhone was found.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that any items falling from the plane should be returned to their office, and they would handle the return to Alaska Airlines.

But the question remains: How did the iPhone manage to survive?


The explanation provided by experts involves physics, the branch of science dealing with the natural properties of matter, including its fundamental constituents, motion, behavior through space and time, and related entities of energy and force.

Duncan Watts, a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Oslo, explained to The Washington Post, “The basic answer is air resistance.” He added, “I think the counterintuitive thing here is that an iPhone falling from the sky doesn’t end up moving that quickly because of air resistance.”

This implies that any object falling to Earth experiences “terminal velocity,” where the pull of gravity is counteracted by resistance from the air in the atmosphere.

Watts further explained, “If the phone is falling with its screen facing the ground, there’s quite a lot of drag, but if the phone is falling straight up and down, there’s quite a bit less.” He mentioned that, in reality, the phone would be tumbling, experiencing wind, essentially giving it an upward force.

The researcher added that if the phone were dropped normally, it would have a speed of about 10 mph when hitting the ground. However, if it fell from an airplane, the speed could reach 50 mph. The landing surface also plays a role; if it lands on grass, it has a higher chance of surviving compared to hitting a hard surface like rock or concrete. “If the iPhone fell on a grassy patch, then it definitely could have survived the fall. If the phone was facing straight down, it would have gone from about 30 mph to stationary on a relatively cushy surface, a little less force than if I decided to stomp on it.”

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