Missouri senator wants expanded PED usage

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US senator Claire McCaskill says she is "prepared to pursue legislative solutions" if the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not update rules for portable electronic device (PED) use in a timely manner, the lawmaker states in a letter to FAA acting administrator Michael Huerta.

McCaskill says she supports the expanded use of PEDs and wants the agency to change its rules to allow their use during the entire flight.

"As you surely know, the public is growing increasingly skeptical of prohibitions on the use of many electronic devices during the full duration of a flight, while at the same time using such devices in increasing numbers," says McCaskill in a release. She noted that the FAA has permitted carriers to use tablets as electronic flight bags (EFBs) in the cockpit.

The lawmaker calls on the FAA and other agencies to work together to revise and update the rules for PED use to reflect today's traveller while maintaining safety.

"While safety and security must be the top priority in air travel, the FAA and other federal agencies should also work to ensure air travel is as hassle free as possible by revising or removing regulations that have become unnecessary or outdated," says the letter. "It is my hope that the FAA will work, with the FCC and other federal agencies where appropriate, as expeditiously as possible to implement common sense changes to today's restrictive regulations on in-flight use of PEDs that better reflect new technologies and the changing role these devices play in Americans' daily lives."

The letter was posted to McCaskill's website on 11 December, after US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Julius Genachowski sent his own to Huerta on 6 December. In that letter, obtained by Flightglobal after first reported by The Hill, the chairman also details his support for "greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable electronic devices during flight, consistent with public safety."

In August, the FAA detailed its plan to put together a working group made up of industry and government interests to study the effects of PEDs during all phases of flight. That is being achieved through an aviation rulemaking committee (ARC) that will present recommendations about their findings to the FAA after meeting for six months. In order for passengers to use a PED on an aircraft today, operators must determine that it will not cause interference with aircraft systems that could pose a risk during the flight.

The FAA insisted that this rulemaking committee will not consider voice communications on cell phones during flights. The FCC's rules ban passengers from using cell phone and wireless devices that utilise the 800 MHz frequency, a ban the commission says it instated because of possible interference they could cause to ground wireless networks.