Bill seeks to ban laptops in cockpits

Senators Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), both members of the Senate Commerce Committee, introduced a bill today that would prohibit the use of personal wireless devices--laptops, Blackberrys, etc--by in-flight crew on commercial airplanes.

Both Senators favor distracted driving legislation introduced in the Senate last week that would give states incentives to ban the use of wireless devices by drivers under 18.  The bill is also in response to the recent Northwest Airlines incident in which pilots missed their destination by 150 miles because they were distracted by personal computers.

Most airlines already prohibit the use of personal devices by flight crew, but it isn't enforced by federal law. This bill allows the Federal Aviation Administration to suspend or revoke a pilot's certificate for a violation or impose a fine of up to $25,000 against an air carrier or up to $1,100 against an individual pilot.

“Passengers should not have to worry about whether the pilots are flying the plane or checking their laptops,” said Klobuchar.  “In their jobs, there is nothing more important than the safety of airline passengers -- this legislation will allow the FAA to make sure distractions are removed from the cockpit and increase the safety of our air carriers.”