Sen. McCaskill presses FAA to allow electronics on flights

McCaskill told a story of being on a flight with a passenger who was upset because she believed her powered-on phone would cause trouble for her airplane.

McCaskill said the passenger was told to stay in her seat by a flight attendant and that the airplane would be fine with the cell phone powered on, adding that she has "heard hundreds of flight attendants" deliver the same message.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told McCaskill that the agency is expecting to release the findings of its electronics study this summer.

McCaskill has threatened to introduce legislation to force the FAA to relent on its electronics prohibition if the agency does not decide to after releasing its findings.

Other lawmakers on the Senate committee used their audience with Huerta to question him about the FAA's plans to close 149 air traffic control towers because of the sequester.

Huerta told the panel that the agency had little choice by to close air towers at airports where it contracts with private companies to monitor flights.

"In order to maintain safety, we have to run a less efficient operation," he said.

Huerta pointed out that most of the flight tower closures are at small regional airports. He said most of the airports have operated without individual flight towers before.

"Our emphasis is on how do we minimize the impact [of the sequeter cuts] on the maximum number of passengers," he said.