Man finds iPhone 'perfectly intact' that likely fell 16,000 feet from Alaska Airlines flight

A man on social media claimed to have found an iPhone on the ground still "perfectly intact" after presumably falling 16,000 feet from an Alaska Airlines flight that suffered an inflight blowout.

Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 was forced to make an emergency landing on Friday in Portland after a plug covering an unused exit door blew off the Boeing 737 Max 9 as it cruised about three miles over Oregon. 

While none of the 171 passengers or six crew were seriously injured, the rapid loss of cabin pressure caused oxygen masks to drop from the ceiling and caused a chaotic scene on board. 

The explosive rush of air damaged several rows of seats and pulled insulation from the walls, according to National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy, who added in a Sunday media briefing that the door plug and two cell phones had been found by members of the community. 

A user on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, shared a post on Sunday that claimed to have found an iPhone on the ground still in airplane mode – likely sucked out of the plane's blown-out door.

"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," wrote X user @SeanSafyre. 

The man, listed as Sean Bates online, added that he reported the phone to the NTSB, which told him it "was the second phone to be found."

In a second post, Bates shared an image of the iPhone with a broken-off charger plug still inside it.

In a follow-up video posted on TikTok, Bates shared how he was out walking when he found the iPhone. 

"I was, of course, a little skeptical at first. I was thinking this could just be thrown out of a car or someone dropped it while they were jogging… but it was still pretty clean. No scratches on it, sitting under a bush, and it didn’t have a screen lock on it," he recalled. "So I opened it up, and it was in airplane mode with a travel confirmation and baggage claim for Alaska 1282."

Both of the phones found were later turned over to the NTSB, which vowed to return them to their owners.

The NTSB also said the lost door plug was found Sunday near Portland by a school teacher — for now, known only as "Bob" — who discovered it in his backyard and sent two photos to the safety board. Investigators will examine the plug, which is 26 by 48 inches and weighs 63 pounds, for signs of how it broke free.

Alaska Airlines flight 1282: What happened?


Alaska Airlines flight 1282 took off from Portland at 5:07 p.m. Friday for a two-hour trip to Ontario, California. About six minutes later, the chunk of fuselage blew out as the plane was climbing at about 16,000 feet.

One of the pilots declared an emergency and asked for clearance to descend to 10,000 feet, where the air would be rich enough for passengers to breathe without oxygen masks.

Videos posted online by passengers showed a gaping hole where the paneled-over door had been. They applauded when the plane landed safely about 13 minutes after the blowout. Firefighters came down the aisle, asking passengers to remain in their seats as they treated the injured.

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


An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max-9 aircraft grounded at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) in Seattle, Washington, on Jan. 6, 2024. Photographer: David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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. United said it was waiting for Boeing to issue a "multi-operator message," which is a service bulletin used when multiple airlines need to perform similar work on a particular type of plane.

The aircraft involved rolled off the assembly line and received its certification two months ago, according to online FAA records. It had been on 145 flights since entering commercial service Nov. 11, said FlightRadar24, another tracking service. The flight from Portland was the aircraft’s third of the day.

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.

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.