I dropped my iPhone 4S from an airplane!

It’s been two and a half weeks since I accidentally dropped my iPhone 4S from an airplane while flying over Sunday River. At times it’s been frustrating not having a connected device available, but mostly it’s been surprisingly okay.

On October 13, in the early afternoon, I preflighted Cessna 172 N9946Q and prepared it for a planned flight with Tonya to Bethel, Rockland, and back to Portland. The foliage was spectacular; the sun reflected off the brilliant yellow, orange, and red leaves, turning them into a never-ending sea of flaming awesome.

I had never landed at Bethel (0B1) and was surprised when we got near to see a rather large hill at the approach end of runway one-four. We crossed at mid-field and entered a left downwind for an uneventful touch-and-go. We departed and followed the familiar Route 26. When we got over Sunday River I basically bisected its many trails, flying about 600 feet above ground level (AGL). When we were in the middle I reached across Tonya to open her window so I could get an unobstructed photo with my iPhone. Then I rolled the plane to the right to get its wheel out of my shot, leaned over, and extended my arm for the perfect shot. I thought I was holding firmly to the phone, and that I remained safely inside the plane. However, as if a magician had waved their wand over my phone, it was gone. In one instant the phone was in my hand, and in the next it was not. Tonya and I immediately looked at each other and I said, “I hated that fucking phone anyways.” I did. A lot.

With there not being anything I could do about the phone at the time, I turned the plane north and continued on our intended course. We flew over some massive wind turbines and enjoyed Maine’s majestic beauty. The ride was a bit bumpy as we were under partly cloudy skies, in mountainous terrain, and flying over many small lakes and ponds. We never did get to Rockland, deciding instead to turn down the coast early and return to Portland.

When I arrived home I immediately went to the Find My Phone page to find out where the phone was. I figured the last known position before it disintegrated might have been transmitted. What I found was that my phone was transmitting its location and had about half it’s battery charge remaining. A few hours later I checked again and the battery was a bit more depleted. The next morning my phone’s battery was only at 8% so I put the phone in Lost Mode, set the screen to display Kirsten’s phone number, and had it broadcast a sound. A few hours later it stopped transmitting.

Confident that the phone had survived the plunge, at least minimally, Tonya and I drove to Sunday River the following weekend to search for it. We had a calculation of its approximate location, as Find My Phone had reported its location and we had my GPS track from the flight. We hiked down Lollapalooza, up State Fair, up the Flying Monkey glade, up Kansas, then down through the Poppy Fields where we hoped we’d find my phone, then back down and up to the car. We did not find my phone. It’s probably still there.

Not having a phone has been in some ways nice. I spend less time checking Facebook and being interrupted by text messages. And I feel more aware of the people and activities around me. I have missed snapping and sharing photos, and it’s felt almost irresponsible at times when someone’s needed to get in contact with me about an aircraft rental or something with one of the girls. Driving without a GPS and turn-by-turn directions has reminded me how spoiled I am by technology.

Fortunately, my pocket computer hiatus is nearly over. A FedEx driver will deliver my new iPhone 6 Plus tomorrow. I had ordered it before dropping my iPhone from the plane, which has made the experience more tolerable.

Before flying over Sunday River, we did a touch-and-go at Bethel
Before flying over Sunday River, we did a touch-and-go at Bethel
Tonya and Brent
Tonya and Brent
These wind turbines are just 17 miles northeast of Bethel
These wind turbines are just 17 miles northeast of Bethel
Photo: Tonya DeBartolo - Portland, Maine
Photo: Tonya DeBartolo – Portland, Maine
Photo: Tonya DeBartolo - Portland Jetport (KPWM) runway two-niner
Photo: Tonya DeBartolo – Portland Jetport (KPWM) runway two-niner
Photo: Tonya DeBartolo - Me with N9946Q
Photo: Tonya DeBartolo – Me with N9946Q
The approximate location of my iPhone 4S
The approximate location of my iPhone 4S
Find My Phone says my iPhone 4S is transmitting
Find My Phone says my iPhone 4S is transmitting
Find My Phone says my iPhone 4S is dead
Find My Phone says my iPhone 4S is dead
Tonya and I hiked through the Poppy Fields, looking for my lost phone
Tonya and I hiked through the Poppy Fields, looking for my lost phone
The phone was dropped from approximately 600 feet AGL
The phone was dropped from approximately 600 feet AGL

To view the entire flight in Google Earth, download the KML file.

Update

My new iPhone 6 Plus arrived this morning via FedEx. I’ve installed ForeFlight Mobile and downloaded the aviation charts for Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts. So I’m all set to go flying and take some nice aerial photos. Who’s coming with me?

My new iPhone 6 Plus, still in its packaging
My new iPhone 6 Plus, still in its packaging
One of the first apps I installed was ForeFlight Mobile
One of the first apps I installed was ForeFlight Mobile

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