March 24, 2011, 12:04 PM — Hey, all you developers out there working on that special parachute app for Apple's iPhone, at ease. Turns out your services won't be needed.
The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) relates a fascinating story from a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant about what happened when his iPhone 4 fell out of his pocket recently while he was preparing some fellow airmen for a practice parachute jump.
Here's how TUAW tells it:
(U.S. Air Force Combat Controller Ron) Walker's duties as a jump master require him to ensure that his aircraft is in the proper location before sending parachute jumpers into the air. One week ago (on March 16), he stuck his body out of the plane's open door to look for landmarks as the plane sped through the air at 130 knots (about 150 mph), about 1,000 feet above the ground.
As he did so, the Velcro seal on his pocket flew open, and out popped his iPhone. Airman Walker could do nothing but watch it fall away from the plane; he assumed it was lost forever, not to mention destroyed by the fall (for reference, that drop is roughly equivalent to tossing a phone off of a 90-story skyscraper).
Of course, if the sergeant were a hard-core Apple fanboy, he probably would have jumped after it. Glad he didn't.
Once back on the ground, Walker told some of his Air Force buddies what happened. Rather than writing off the iPhone as MIA, Walker downloaded an app called Find My iPhone onto a colleague's iPhone, probably with the intent of finding the device and giving it a decent burial.
They immediately got a signal from the missing phone, which was about two miles away in the North Carolina woods. The pair rode some ATVs out on a rescue mission and found Walker's iPhone not only still working, but without any external damage. Not even a scratch.
Maybe the phone's landing was cushioned by a not-so-angry bird trying to assist a soldier in need. It certainly helped that the iPhone was in a Griffin Motif polyurethane case, which Griffin Technology bills as "durable, flexible, scuff- and tear-resistant." Now there's some truth in advertising.
Charles Starrett over at iLounge has a couple of good photos of the lucky phone, which probably qualifies for a mobile device Medal of Valor.
Finally, the Air Force might want to have a word with its pocket Velcro contractor.
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.