UPDATE: FAA Reauthorization Webinar Postponed!

“Congress Kicks the FAA and our Webinar Down the Road…..Again!!”

The seemingly endless FAA reauthorization process looks like it will continue for yet another month.  At the beginning of May, it looked like the bill had finally generated enough momentum for easy passage in the Senate.  The House had already dropped its controversial plans for privatization of air traffic control and passed their version of the Reauthorization Act by a wide margin.  The Senate put their version of the bill on the calendar on May 8, and it appeared to be on an easy road to passage in June.

Unfortunately, the Senate never got around to taking up the measure.  According to a recent report, it appears that the Senate will now delay taking up their version of the bill  until the July work period.  Regrettably, sensing that this is a “must pass” bill, the Senate version is already starting to attract non-aviation provisions, such as controversial changes to the meal-and-rest-break rules for truck drivers.  To make matters even more complicated, Politico has reported that Senate Minority leader Schumer has been working to attach the AV START bill, which seeks to make it easier to use autonomous cars, to the FAA reauthorization.  This may further delay matters and also will make it harder for the House and Senate conferees to reconcile the final version to send to the President.

Because of all of these delays, LeClair Ryan will be postponing its free webinar on the FAA Reauthorization until July 26, 2018.  Hopefully by then we will have an actual FAA Reauthorization Act that we can analyze in detail.

FAA v. FCC On Drone Enforcement

Whenever issues impacting aviation safety arise, the public’s attention naturally turns to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to see what its response will be.  A number of other federal agencies, however, play important roles in ensuring the safe functioning of the National Airspace System.  The Department of Homeland Security oversees anti-terrorism and security, the Department of Transportation ensures that hazardous materials are not carried on aircraft, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ensures that command, control, and communications systems work in harmony with other devices that use the electromagnetic spectrum.

An FCC notice of proposed penalty of over $2.8 million issued against HobbyKing earlier this month shows just how seriously these other agencies take their responsibilities.  HobbyKing makes, among other things, a system used in drone racing that transmits video signals from a drone back to the controller.


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Pipeline Accidents and NTSB Investigations Webinar

We want to thank you for joining in for the Webinar on we hosted on June 13th. While this webinar was not specifically aviation related, we wanted to share it with our readers here at Plane-ly Spoken because it involves the NTSB, which is a frequently covered topic on this blog, and the protocols some of our readers will benefit from when dealing with pipeline accident investigations.

During this webinar we also explained how to navigate NTSB investigations to minimize the impact on your company. If you happened to miss it and would like to learn more, please follow this link to the recording and PowerPoint slides. We also have a brand new Pipeline Brochure available to you on our LeClairRyan Aviation Symposium App.

If you have any questions, please contact ask.aviation@leclairryan.com.

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National Academies of Sciences to FAA: “You’re Being Too Conservative!!”

According to a new Report from the National Academies of Sciences, the FAA’s commercial drone rules are too strict and the FAA’s zero tolerance policy towards commercial air accidents is stifling development of the industry. This report comes on the heels of recent 95-page report by the US Government Accountability Office criticizing UAS policy as being based largely on guesswork over the risks to the airspace, rather than hard facts.

The GAO’s Report noted that, while the FAA has collected over 6,000 reports of UAS sightings near manned aircraft or airports. These reports are almost entirely unverified, as the pilots can rarely make a positive identification of the make or model of aircraft, and, due to the small size of the vehicles, the sightings cannot be backed up by radar.  As a result, the GAO argues that the FAA’s restrictions on commercial UAS flight cannot amount to more than an educated “best guess” as to the magnitude of the risk and the likely harm in the event of an accident.


The Aviation Symposium Webinar Series Presents…

The FAA Reauthorization Act: What is in it and What does it mean for you?

It’s that time of year, and. Congress is once again attempting to pass a comprehensive reauthorization for the FAA. The difference this time around is that it’s almost certain to pass. The House of Representatives decided to strip out the most controversial parts of the 21st Century AIRR Act and, after a flurry of amendments on the floor of the House, passed a comprehensive bill that sets FAA priorities well into the next decade. Over the next few weeks, the focus will be on the United States Senate, where a similar bill is likely to be passed by the end of June. 


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Enforcement vs. Compliance: The Debate Rages On!

Since its inception, the FAA has been primarily concerned with ensuring that the National Airspace System is the safest in the world.  While everyone agrees with that goal, not everyone agrees on the best way to accomplish it.

On June 26, 2015, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced a major change in its compliance philosophy in Administrative Order 8000.373. This change in philosophy was controversial at the time, and as we approach the Order’s third anniversary, it remains so.


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We Have a Problem on Line 7: NTSB Investigations of Pipeline Accidents

The NTSB increasingly focuses its attention on pipeline accidents and pipeline operators as no major domestic air crash has occurred in nearly a decade. Since January 1, 2008, the NTSB has launched 20 major investigations of pipeline accidents and issued numerous pipeline accident reports. These investigations fuel civil lawsuits, significant public attention, regulatory scrutiny, criminal prosecutions, and political pressure.

Join us on June 13 for a complimentary 90-minute webinar where we will explain how to navigate NTSB investigations to minimize the impact on your company. During the webinar, you will gain unique insights from the most recent addition to our NTSB practice — recently retired NTSB general counsel David Tochen.

Among the topics we will discuss are:

  • Areas of NTSB inquiry following a pipeline accident
  • How an NTSB investigation will impact a pipeline operator
  • The NTSB process with step-by-step details
  • Common mistakes companies make in dealing with the NTSB
  • How to handle an NTSB investigation as part of your overall emergency response

As always, the audience will also have an opportunity to ask questions and shape the discussion. You will not want to miss this discussion, combining a behind-the-scenes look at the NTSB process with an experienced practitioner’s insights into avoiding the negative consequences associated with an NTSB investigation.

If you would like to register for this event, please follow this link and if you have any additional questions, please email Kristina Repko at kristina.repko@leclairryan.com.

Organizational Risk Management Course at NBAA

LeClairRyan’s aviation partner, Christa Hinckley, will present at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) in Washington D.C. next month. On June 12, 2018, Ms. Hinckley, along with David T. Norton (Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP) and Brint Smith, ARM (John F. Thorne & Co.), will teach a course on organizational risk management, also known as enterprise risk management.

This course will cover a wide range of topics, including establishing a baseline of organizational risks within an individual company vs. the industry standard, understanding potential risks from a business aviation perspective, discussing risk scenarios, and planning a risk management structure.

The NBAA event is being held at their own headquarters in Washington and begins at 8 a.m. This course fulfills the NBAA PDP Objective Business Management 8 (BM*) Please follow this link to register. For more information on the course itself, please contact Christa Hinckley at christa.hinckley@leclairryan.com.

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Thank you for Attending: Drones and Natural Disasters

We hope you enjoyed the latest edition of the UAS Webinar Series: Drones and Natural Disasters. Mark Dombroff and I covered an array of topics from the different levels of certification for UAS operation to what type of operations are likely to be approved or prohibited for UAS disaster response.

If you were unable to tune in, or would like a copy for later viewing, you can find the PowerPoint slides and recording here on the LeClairRyan event page. And as always, you can also find the slides on our Aviation Symposium App.

Any questions or concerns? Please contact Kristina Repko at kristina.repko@leclairryan.com.

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Cleared For Takeoff: The UAS Integration Pilot Program Begins!

The UAS Integration Pilot Program just got its big kick-off, with Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announcing the state, local, and tribal government partnerships that would form the core of the new effort.

As you may remember, the program was announced back on October 25, 2017 with a very aggressive timetable that left interested parties scrambling to put together public/private teams needed to support a successful program.  While the FAA originally committed to support five teams, the number of finalists is double that initial number, and includes:


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