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Government, Politics & Issues

McCaskill claims victory in FAA decision to allow broader use of electronic devices on planes

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., is claiming some of the credit for the Federal Aviation Administration’s announcement that it will allow expanded use of portable electronic devices – but no telephone calls on cell phones – on commercial airplanes.

“Passengers will eventually be able to read e-books, play games and watch videos on their devices during all phases of flight, with very limited exceptions,” the FAA said in a press release.

“This is great news for the traveling public — and frankly, a win for common sense,” said McCaskill, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection. “I applaud the FAA for taking the necessary steps to change these outdated regulations and I look forward to the airlines turning around quick plans for implementation.”

The FAA announced that a report by a special committee had concluded that expanded use of portable electronic devices would pose no risk to the traveling public. However, the speed of implementation will vary, according to the airlines.

Explained the FAA: “Due to differences among fleets and operations, the implementation will vary among airlines, but the agency expects many carriers will prove to the FAA that their planes allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year.”

The FAA emphasized that the ban on cell phone use will still stand. The FAA guidelines also said that "devices must be used in airplane mode or with the cellular connection disabled. You may use the WiFi connection on your device if the plane has an installed WiFi system and the airline allows its use. You can also continue to use short-range Bluetooth accessories, like wireless keyboards."

Laptops will still have to be stowed during take-offs and landings because "these items could impede evacuation of an aircraft or may injure you or someone else in the event of turbulence or an accident," according to the FAA.   

Click here to read the FAA's FAQ on its policy changes. Forbes has a more reader-friendly "Dos and Dont's," explaining what will be allowed.

McCaskill said she “was personally briefed this morning by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta on the status of the committee’s report — and the FAA’s plans to work with the airline industry to quickly relax existing regulations — a process that the FAA believes could be largely completed by the end of the year.”

She said she “thanked Huerta for the FAA’s effort and urged the agency to move quickly on the implementation of new standards.”

“I held the FAA’s feet to the fire to move quickly and responsibly and it has now delivered,” McCaskill said. “I expect the airlines, as key partner stakeholders who helped produce the recommendations to relax current restrictions, to move quickly so that Americans flying for the holidays no longer face restrictions that make no sense.”

McCaskill noted that in her campaign for press for change, she had “written four times to the FAA administrator, met with the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to discuss expanded use of portable electronic devices, and questioned various government officials during Senate hearings.”

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