During a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on aviation safety on Tuesday, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) requested a decision from FAA by the end of the year on expanding the in-flight use of portable electronic devices (PEDs) on commercial flights.
McCaskill has been a strong advocate for the issue in recent months, writing a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta expressing her concern with the issue, and stating her intention to introduce legislation forcing expanded use of PEDs if FAA does not move quickly enough.
In 2012, FAA launched a study group to review its policies regarding electronic devices, in an effort to find a balance between preventing interference with aircraft systems and allowing passengers to use tablet computers and cell phones throughout the duration of an entire flight. Airlines currently do not allow electronic devices when airplanes are below 10,000 feet.
On Tuesday McCaskill compared the rules that regulate commercial aircraft to those that apply to the president and Air Force One.
"It appears to me to not be grounded in any type of data or evidence whatsoever," McCaskill said. "If it's safe enough for the President of the United States, it's safe enough for the traveling public."
Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) noted that he was originally comfortable with FAA's current regulations for PEDs, adding that "McCaskill is moving me on this subject."
McCaskill has also said she feels the rule is outdated because of commercial airlines' transition to pilots' use of iPads and other tablet computers as electronic flight bags in the cockpit.
"This is a matter of great personal interest for me," Huerta said, responding to McCaskill's concerns on Tuesday.
FAA's Aviation Rulemaking Committee has a July 31 deadline to propose recommendations on changes to the current regulations on PEDs.
Related: In-Flight Connectivity News