Anyone who has traveled by plane has felt the frustration of being required to endure a long flight sans certain electronic devices. While restrictions were eased to allow some electronics such as e-readers, tablets, and laptops during certain portions of the flight, and many airlines now offer in-flight pay-as-you-go internet access, the ban on device use is still too restrictive for some consumers.
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) has been at work on easing the restrictions on in-flight use of portable devices in light of the lack of scientific evidence that the devices do, in fact, interfere with the flight controls in some detrimental way. That reported interference is a long-standing belief, but McCaskill states that no evidence has been brought forward to support that belief.
“It appears to me to not be grounded in any type of data or evidence whatsoever,” McCaskill said in a press release on the ban. As she explained in a Commerce Committee meeting on aviation safety, these rules seem almost arbitrary in light of the fact that they are not in place for the numerous people who travel on Air Force One, all presumably with portable devices. The photo of then-Secretary of State reading a text on her cell phone from her seat aboard an air transport even became a popular Internet meme. “If it’s safe enough for the President of the United States, it’s safe enough for the traveling public.”
In addition to the lack of evidence that would support the ban, McCaskill has pointed to the airlines’ own standards. Many airlines have replaced the manuals that pilots originally used in the cockpit with tablet computers, the same devices that passengers aboard those same planes are not allowed to use for the entire flight, rather having their devices relegated to key times in travel.
McCaskill has had words with the Federal Aviation Administration’s Michael Huerta, and has stated that his lack of response on the issue has prompted her to move forward in drafting legislation that will address the issue. McCaskill is already receiving support for lifting this ban from the FCC and from other members of Congress from both parties.