updated 01:33 pm EST, Fri March 8, 2013
Senator proposing a bill to scrap current FAA rules
In a frustrated letter to FAA director Michael Huerta on Thursday, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) expressed concern with Huerta's "lack of direct engagement" on the subject of in-flight use of personal electronic devices. The senator is proposing a bill to greatly increase the usage window of cellphones, tablets, music players, and other electronic devices before, during, and after the flight, including during takeoff and landing.
"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." wrote the senator.
McCaskill addressed Huerta regarding the issue in December, noting the hypocrisy of flight crews being allowed to use the devices during flight as "electronic flight bags" that replace the volumes of paper charts and aviation informational bulletins and instructions. Huerta's response in February told the senator that the FAA is in a comment accumulation phase from the aviation and technology industries, and has formed an Aviation Rulemaking Committee that has been instructed to deliver recommendations this summer.
The senator was not pleased with the response. Regarding Huerta's actions, she noted in an an interview with Politico that the letter "basically said, 'We’re in a process and we’re looking at the process.' So the next step in the process is calling the stakeholders in ourselves and beginning to try to pull together the right legislation."
"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," the senator tersely wrote in her letter yesterday to the FAA chairman.
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski met with the senator last week, and they agreed to work together on the issue. McCaskill is drafting a bill to completely dispose of the old rules, but Electronista was unable to get a comment on the contents of the bill.