by Brent Dirks
March 8, 2013
Let’s hear it for Sen. Claire McCaskill. According to Politico, the Missouri Democrat is planning to introduce a bill allowing electronic devices, with the exception of cell phones, to be used during all aspects of a flight. So while you’d still have to shut off your iPhone (or put it into airplane mode), the bill would allow fliers to use an iPad or iPod during the entire flight:
McCaskill said neither members of the public nor lawmakers believe the FAA's contention that regulations requiring passengers to shut off their devices during takeoff and landing "are any longer about safety." McCaskill first raised the issue with Huerta last December, noting what she called the FAA's "intransigence" on the issue, even as flight crews received the go-ahead to use devices during flight as "electronic flight bags" that will replace the bulky bags filled with dozens of pounds of critical aviation information.Part of the reasoning for McCaskill writing a bill was the perceived slowness by the FAA to make any changes. Early last year, the FAA said it would take a "fresh look" at the guidelines. But almost a year later, fliers are still not allowed to use any electronic devices during taxi, takeoff, and landing. In a letter from McCaskill to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, she voiced her concern that the process was dragging on:
“Ultimately, it will be up to the FAA, and you as administrator, to provide leadership, make a decision and compel the needed changes to the current rules. With this in mind, I was disappointed by the lack of commitment to the matter in your response,” McCaskill wrote. “Simply put, electronic devices that are currently allowed above 10,000 feet should be allowed for use during all phases of flight. It is preposterous to think that an e-reader in a passenger’s hands during takeoff is any more a threat to other passengers or crew members than a hardback book.”Despite what you might think about the partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C., I’m glad to see this legislator use her office to bring actual common sense change. And according to recent information from in-flight Wi-Fi provider GoGo, there will be a lot of happy iOS device users if McCaskill can force the FAA to speed up the process to change its rules.