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Senator Pressuring the FAA to Hurry Up and End In-Flight Ban on Cell Phones

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 09:15 AM

(Photo CC by Jetstar Airways)


(Shannon Mullen -- Marketplace) You know that rule when you’re on a plane that you have to shut down your electronic devices for takeoff and landing? It’s up for review by an FAA panel with everyone from government regulators to airlines and device makers.

The group just met for the first time in January and plans to recommend new standards for devices on planes by July, but Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill thinks that’s not fast enough.

“If somebody is not being the squeaky wheel on this, it could be years, knowing how long this process typically takes,” McCaskill says. She points out that the FAA lets pilots use iPads in the cockpit instead of paper flight manuals, and she says there’s no hard evidence that other devices like e-readers and laptops interfere with planes.

“Unless and until somebody shows me that data I feel sense of obligation to keep pushing to make this rule change as quickly as possible,” says McCaskill, who is already drafting legislation to change the policy.

“Makes me wonder what are we doing there if people like herself have already decided that she wants a certain result and we better come up with it,” says Doug Kidd, of the National Association of Airline Passengers.

He’s on the FAA panel and he argues that there’s no evidence today’s devices don’t affect planes, and new devices hit the market every day. Kidd adds that most people don’t mind reasonable rules during takeoff and landing.

“It’s the most dangerous part of any flight,” he says. “It’s also the time when most accidents occur, so we’d rather not take a chance on distracting the flight crew at this point in time.”

The FAA would not comment on McCaskill’s push for action.  Kidd says the panel’s progress might seem slow, but Congress is not exactly known for its efficiency either.

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