McCaskill threatens legislation on airplane electronic device rules

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Tuesday to relax its rules for electronic device use on airplanes or face legislation from her forcing it to do so.

The FAA said earlier this year that it was reviewing its policies regarding electronic devices, which have come under fire from both airline passengers and electronic manufacturers in recent years.

McCaskill said the result of the FAA's review should be more electronic device use.

“We live in an increasingly connected world, and information is traveling at the speed it takes our email to refresh,” the recently reelected Missouri senator said in a statement released by her office.

“The current rules are inconvenient to travelers, don’t make sense, and lack a scientific basis," McCaskill continued. "Airline employees have the incredibly important job of keeping us safe in the air — their efforts are better spent worrying about rules that actually accomplish that goal.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Airline passengers are currently allowed to use electronic devices that do not emit radio waves, such as laptops and tablets that are not connected to the Internet, during flights after taking off and before final approaches.

Aviation regulators have argued that data-emitting electronic devices could interfere with airplanes' operational equipment.

But in a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, McCaskill said the fear of interference from electronic devices is "dated at best."

"As you surely know, the public is growing increasingly skeptical of prohibitions on the use of many electronic devices during the full duration of a flight, while at the same time using such devices in increasing numbers," she wrote. "For example, a traveler can read a paper copy of a newspaper throughout a flight, but is prohibited from reading the same newspaper for major portions of the flight when reading it on an e-reader.

"Importantly, such anachronistic policies undermine the public’s confidence in the FAA, thereby increasing the likelihood that rules of real consequence will be given too little respect," McCaskill continued. "The absurdity of the current situation was highlighted when the FAA acted earlier this year to allow tablet computers to replace paper flight manuals in the cockpit, further enhancing the public’s skepticism about the current regulations."

In its announcement about studying the electronic device rules, the FAA said its review would not include consideration of allowing "voice communications" during flights.