Not everyone agrees. There have been many reports from pilots over the years of electronic interference that appeared to have been caused by passenger use of devices. Technical panels that have looked into the issue in the past concluded evidence that the devices were safe wasn't sufficient to merit lifting restrictions.
But Delta Airlines said in a letter to the FAA last year that out of 2.3 million flights over two years, the airline received 27 reports from pilots and maintenance crews of possible device interference. None of the reports could be confirmed, the letter said.
It's up to FAA officials whether to follow the committee's recommendations. The agency created the committee, put several of its employees on the panel and was closely involved in the deliberations, so it's expected that all or most of the recommendations will be implemented. How long that will take is unclear.
Airline passengers could see restrictions lifted as soon as early 2014 if the agency chooses a faster implementation track, or the process could drag on for a year or more if airlines have to apply, carrier by carrier, to have their planes approved as safe for use of the devices, industry officials said.
McCaskill said that if FAA officials don't "act swiftly" to implement the recommendations, she'll introduce legislation to force their hand.
The FAA doesn't have the authority to lift restrictions on cellphone calls. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the cellphone industry, has opposed allowing passengers on fast-moving planes to make phone calls, citing potential interference with cellular networks as phones in the sky skip from cell tower to cell tower faster than networks can keep up.
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