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Cockpit Laptop Ban Eyed

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North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan will propose a measure to ban the use of laptop computers and other "personal electronic devices" in airliner cockpits in response to the distraction of two Northwest Airlines pilots last month that they say led to their missing their destination of Minneapolis. Dorgan, chairman of the aviation subcommittee, told the Associated Press he was surprised that the use of such devices isn't specifically outlawed and that clearly there's a need for that kind of guidance. "We now understand from this flight at least that this can happen and there ought to be a more clear understanding by everyone in the cockpit that there is a national standard that would prohibit this and that they need to take it seriously," said Dorgan, D-N.D. His staff is currently working on the wording of the measure, which he confirmed will exempt electronic flight bags. There are a lot of other definitions that need to be nailed down, however.

The AP story mentions DVD players, MP3 players and "other devices" as being subject to the ban. There's also the question of what constitutes an airliner and whether other types of paying passenger services will be included in the ban. And since there's another law that requires the cockpit to be locked during flight, enforcement becomes another discussion point. Dorgan expects to have the bill ready next week and told the AP that he expects it to be included in a larger aviation bill (FAA Reauthorization?) to be considered by the Senate.

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