May 20, 2013

Senator Claire McCaskill fights for plane readers’ rights


Hillary Clinton can read on planes, but the general public must turn off electronic reading devices during take-off.

If you travel with an ereader, you’ve encountered that moment on a plane when you’re required to shut off your device during take-off. The reason that airlines cite for this reading interruption is that the electronic signal interferes with the flight controls in some way. But, as the popular Hillary Clinton meme demonstrated last summer, government officials are always reading on planes. If they can, why can’t we?

Senator Claire McCaskill is asking the same question. She’s been working on changing flight restrictions that prevent the use of portable electronic devices because she says that there is no scientific evidence that use of ereaders will cause problems for pilots or airport operators.

“It appears to me to not be grounded in any type of data or evidence whatsoever,” McCaskill said. Comparing rules on passenger aircraft to those on Air Force One, she continued: “If it’s safe enough for the President of the United States, it’s safe enough for the traveling public.”

Nick Bilton echoed some of the inconsistancies of the policies for reading devices in a post on the New York Times Bits blog in March, explaining that although travelers have to turn of iPads and Kindles, electronic devices like electronic razors and audio recorders are allowed, even though they give off more “electronic emissions” than ereaders. Some legislators are working to define  “airplane mode” and get it approved, to allow for an uninterrupted reading environment. In a phone conversation with Bilton, McCaskill even went to far as to suggest that a physical book could be more dangerous than an ereader on a plane:

“So it’s O.K. to have iPads in the cockpit; it’s O.K. for flight attendants—and they are not in a panic—yet it’s not O.K. for the traveling public,” she said. “A flying copy of War and Peace is more dangerous than a Kindle.”




Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.