Author Archives: Mark E. McKinnon

Mark E. McKinnon

About: Mark E. McKinnon

Mr. Mark McKinnon has worked for over 27 years in all areas of aviation and transportation law, including litigation, appellate, regulatory and other administrative matters. He has written and spoken extensively on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and aviation matters. In addition, he is co-editor of the Plane-ly Spoken blog, which is dedicated to providing up-to-date news, analysis, and opinion on issues that affect the aviation industry.

The SAFETY Act and Horizon Air

A few days ago, Richard Russell, a 29 year old airline ground employee, got in a 76 seat commercial aircraft and took off from a crowded airport. Many people expressed surprise that he was able to accomplish this feat given the complexity of a modern commercial aircraft, noting that even starting the engines is a multistep process.  In addition, he showed a fair amount of skill in flying the aircraft.  Despite this, it appears he had no training in commercial multiengine aircraft and little, if any, formal pilot training. In this instance, the troubled young man may have been suicidal, …

[ CONTINUE READING ]

Thank You For Attending the Waivers, Exemptions, and Certification Webinar

Thank you for joining us yesterday on our webinar: Waivers, Exemptions, and Certification: How to get permission to do what you want with your Unmanned Aircraft. We had a great turnout and appreciate your continued support of our Aviation Webinar Series. If you happened to miss this webinar and would like to view/listen to the Presentation you can find it here. Please be on the lookout for our next Webinar on The FAA Reauthorization and What it Means for You, scheduled for later this month.

Drones: A Uniformly Bad Law

Anyone who operates a regional or nationwide business knows that coping with a patchwork of state and local laws can be challenging. Fortunately, the states also realize that this can be a problem, and will sometimes cooperate to voluntarily establish a “uniform” law.  For example, in 1952, a group of top legal scholars from the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) got together and drafted the Uniform Commercial Code.  This code has been adopted (with some variations) in every state, and has greatly improved predictability for business owners. Over the past five years, most states have enacted …

[ CONTINUE READING ]

Posted in General \ Leave a comment

Ten Years Later and $30 Million Less: SEATAC is NOT Vicariously Liable

The Washington State Supreme Court issued its long awaited decision in Afoa v. Port of Seattle today.  The Court rejected a lower court decision that had the effect of making an airport automatically liable for the negligence of an airline’s contractors, such as ground handlers.  LeClairRyan Aviation attorneys were called in after the unfavorable result in the Court of Appeals and counsel worked on, with the assistance of the preexisting counsel, the appeal before the Washington Supreme Court.  Mark Dombroff executed the oral argument.

Posted in General \ Leave a comment

“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.  …

[ CONTINUE READING ]

Posted in General \ Leave a comment

Drones – The Supreme Court and Judge Kavanaugh…Plane-ly Spoken Weighs in!

What can drones tell us about Supreme Court Justice nominees?  It turns out, quite a bit. Earlier this week, President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to fill the seat vacated by Justice Kennedy.  In his prepared remarks, Judge Kavanaugh stated that “a judge must be independent, and must interpret the law, not make the law.  A judge must interpret statutes as written . . . .”  In order to determine whether Judge Kavanaugh lives these words, or merely pays them lip service, we have to look at …

[ CONTINUE READING ]

Posted in General \ Leave a comment

A Drone is Not a Toy…It’s an Airplane

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has just released an important decision in the case of Taylor v. FAA, regarding regulation of unmanned aircraft operated for recreational purposes. 

Posted in UAS \ Leave a comment

The EPIC Privacy Suit: Our Crystal Ball Called It!

Back in January of this year, we reported on oral argument before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the case of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) v. FAA.  EPIC was appealing the FAA’s refusal to promulgate privacy regulations as part of the small UAS rules.  According to EPIC, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 required the FAA to consider privacy as part of the mandate to integrate UAS into the airspace.  The FAA countered this argument by claiming that Congress only intended the FAA to regulate the safety aspects of …

[ CONTINUE READING ]

Posted in General \ Leave a comment

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, …

[ CONTINUE READING ]

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 …

[ CONTINUE READING ]

Posted in General \ Leave a comment