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US senator adds to clamour for relaxed rules on in-flight tablet and smartphone use

13 Dec 2012
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US senator Claire McCaskill has added to the growing calls for expanded use of tablets and smartphones on airplanes.

Senator McCaskill has written a letter to the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) asking the group to loosen its policies on tablet and smartphone use during flights. The senator said the FAA should act now or legislation would be introduced compelling it to act.

"We live in an increasingly connected world, and information is traveling at the speed it takes our email to refresh," said McCaskill.

"The current rules are inconvenient to travellers, don't make sense, and lack a scientific basis. Airline employees have the incredibly important job of keeping us safe in the air - their efforts are better spent worrying about rules that actually accomplish that goal."

As it currently stands, airline travellers can only use portable electronic devices when an airplane has reached an altitude of 10,000 feet. FAA regulations stipulate that mobile devices can not be used during a plane's takeoff and landing.

The rules are set into place out of a fear that portable electronics could adversely effect airplanes communications equipment. However, a growing group of constituents have begun to question that theory.

Both McCaskill and the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have called upon the FAA to reconsider its current stance on mobile device usage on planes. FCC chairman Julius Genachowski wrote a letter to the FAA earlier this month that shared similar complaints to the ones McCaskill brought up.

The recent cries for expanded use of mobile devices on planes come as the FAA begins looking into its current policies on the issue.

FAA administrator Michael Huerta said in an August statement that the FAA would be launching a working group to look into whether mobile devices have an effect on airplane communications.

Previous studies into the matter found that mobile device usage led to a greater amount of interface on airplane guidance systems. A Nasa study from 2001 found that the use of portable devices caused an uptick in registered anomalies on aircraft systems.

In 2007, Australian authorities also reported that the use of mobile devices could have played a factor in the crash of Qantas flight QF72.

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James Dohnert

James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club,, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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