An iPhone fell out of a plane at 11,000 feet - and survived
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We've already covered plenty of stories about all kinds of apparently invincible iPhone models surviving the harshest of accidental drop tests, or extreme environment survival tests. Well, here's another one, this one perhaps a little more extreme than most.
The iPhone owner in question took to an aviator forum
to detail his lucky break, which is how we got to know about it. David was an avid flyer of a small DA40 airplane, which sports "a large plexiglass canopy with small side windows that can be opened in flight."
He would often open these windows to take pictures, he writes, as the plexiglass tended to distort the outside view. He even kept them open to cool down the overheating electronics in the plane sometimes.
That fateful day, David happened to be flying home to Atlanta, from a trip to Colorado Springs. He had stopped to refuel in Branson, Massachusetts, before continuing on the last leg of his journey.
It was around 6:30pm, and David was flying more than 11,000 feet above an endless expanse of farm fields below. He noticed some unique billowing cloud formations off to his right, and decided it was worth taking a photo. As he clicked open the window, David realized that the fact that he was moving at 175mph meant that the outside slipstream would whip the phone straight out of his hand, if he got too close.
Nevertheless, as he leaned over to snap that beautiful aerial shot, a burst of turbulence decided to shake up his plane at that exact moment, pulling his hand a little too close to the window—and the iPhone X
was sucked out and gone into the void in the span of an instant.
At first I was upset about the loss, but after a few minutes began chuckling to myself as it was a 4 year old iPhone X and I probably needed to upgrade to a 5G phone anyway.
David finally landed in Atlanta at 10pm, and the next day, he took an extra iPhone 6s
he had lying around to the closest AT&T, aiming get it hooked up with a temporary SIM until he bought a replacement phone.
As he went to disable the iPhone X
, which he'd completely written off at that point, he was shocked to see a recent Arkansas map location showing on up on Find My iPhone when he looked it up on the iPhone 6s
. The phone had last transmitted its GPS location at 9:39pm the previous day.
David's incredulity gradually turned to curiosity, as he made up his mind to make the two-and-a-half flight back to Arkansas and see if he could find the phone. He felt sure it would be smashed to pieces, with little possibility of the battery surviving the impact of falling from 11,000 feet.
Once he landed in Arkansas, the soy bean field where his phone happened to have fallen proved a difficult off-road trek to reach. He had to cross nearly a mile of soggy, chest-high rice fields, ankle-deep mud, and irrigation ditches. The destination farm field was planted with waist-high soy bean plants that were difficult to get through.
And even after his iPhone 6s had finally led him to the exact location of the likely doomed phone, David had a 10-meter (thirty-foot) radius to search, as that's the most precise that the GPS location technology gets. Scouring that 30-foot radius proved no easy feat.
As we had no tools with us, we started to kick the crops at their base. In 95 degree Arkansas heat, and no drinks with us, we were pouring sweat, legs bleeding from the constant assault from the crops.
The Play Sound feature on Find My iPhone didn't help, since the battery had lost power the night before—most likely pulverized, David felt sure. After a grueling hour of searching, he was starting to give up hope, until he finally noticed the shiny gleam of glass on the ground. When he knew he'd laid eyes on his long-lost phone, David said, he let out a victorious scream.
Picking up the phone, there was not a scratch on it, just dust on the back of my OtterBox case. The screen was perfect. But would it work?
The battery was dead when he tried to power it on in the middle of that soy field, but that had been expected. A victory was still a victory, and David was triumphant as he began the difficult trek back to his loaner car. Once there, he connected the newfound iPhone to a USB port in the car, and waited with bated breath. It took no more than a few seconds for the phone to respond, displaying the charging logo on the screen.
David was incredulous as he made the nearly-three-hour flight back to Atlanta, and in even greater disbelief when the phone continued to work fine over the next few days. There was no damage whatsoever on that iPhone X, which had survived a fall from over 11,000 feet.
"It wasn't about the $1500 I would spend for a new iPhone," writes David. "It was really about the adventure and the intellectual curiosity about whether we could find it and what it would look like after falling out of an airplane."
Whether David's story is a bigger endorsement of the endurance capabilities of OtterBox cases, or of the iPhone itself, is a difficult question in itself.
The iPhone X had landed on hard, dry soybean dirt, he says, after reaching at least 200mph in terminal velocity during its freefall, as David estimates. The iPhone model in question has both a glass front and glass back, held together by a stainless steel frame, which—reinforced by its apparently unbreakable OtterBox case—was miraculously sturdy enough to avoid even a dent after a fall from the sky.