Senate Bill Backs Use of Electronic Devices on Planes

Contrary to what the Federal Aviation Administration might like, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) will not turn off or stow her efforts to re-evaluate regulations on the in-flight use of portable electronic devices.

McCaskill, in a letter today, told the nation’s air travel chief that she will begin drafting legislation to loosen restrictions, which currently prohibit passengers from using PEDs for the full duration of their flights.

“Simply put, electronic devices that are currently allowed above 10,000 feet should be allowed for use during all phases of flight,” McCaskill wrote. “It is preposterous to think that an e-reader in a passenger’s hands during takeoff is anymore a threat to other passengers or crew members than a hardback book.”

Action comes on the heels of McCaskill’s Dec. 11 letter to FAA administrator Michael Huerta that said she would look at legislative solutions if his agency delayed a reconsideration of restrictions. As 2013 began, the FAA said members were still being appointed to the Aviation Rulemaking Committee. Its task is scheduled to be completed circa summer.

Senator’s previous letter to Huerta highlighted flaws in the existing rules, pointing out that the FAA already allows airlines to replace their paper manuals in the cockpit with tablet computers. McCaskill received a response Feb. 12 that she deemed concerning, criticizing Huerta for his “lack of direct engagement.”

In the coming weeks McCaskill said she will be meeting with various stakeholders to receive input on the bone of contention and will work with colleagues to build bipartisan support for Congressional action.

Huerta’s initial response is posted on McCaskill’s Web site, as is her latest letter.

Since joining the Senate in 2007, McCaskill has served on the Senate Committee on Commerce, which has jurisdiction over aviation and communications policy, and this year was named chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance.

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