Sen. Rockefeller urges caution in expanding airplane tablet use

Greg Nash

The chairman of the Senate committee that oversees transportation issues said on Thursday that the Federal Aviation Administration's decision to expand the use of electronic devices on airplanes should be implemented cautiously.

“Having access to e-mail or a movie is not worth compromising the safety of any flight," Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said in a statement.

"While today's ruling is an added convenience for consumers, we must keep in mind that safety is always our foremost concern when making improvements to the passenger experience on flights," Rockefeller continued. "I’m confident the FAA will conduct exhaustive oversight of the entire process, and I expect the airlines to conduct thorough assessments on their fleets before they let passengers use electronic devices.”

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Rockefeller was reacting to the FAA's announcement on Thursday that it would allow airline passengers to keep some gadgets on during the entire lengths of flights.

Prior to the announcement, the FAA prohibited all electronic device use when airplanes were taking off and landing. 

The agency said on Thursday that it would allow "gate-to-gate" use of devices that can be used in "airplane mode," without cellular service. The decision continues the ban on cell signals, including voice calls.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said he was confident the increased use of electronic devices would not impact flight safety.

“These guidelines reflect input from passengers, pilots, manufacturers, and flight attendants, and I look forward to seeing airlines implement these much anticipated guidelines in the near future,” Foxx said in a statement.