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.

Drones and Other Stuff: The 2018 FAA Reauthorization

Readers of Plane-ly Spoken are well aware of the twisting, and sometime torturous path, that FAA reauthorization takes. Competing versions of the reauthorization were introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate last summer.  Both bills, each weighing in at over 400 pages, got sidetracked during the fall, resulting in yet another short term extension. Now, however, efforts to pass a comprehensive, five year reauthorization of the FAA may finally be entering the home stretch. This week, a new version of the House bill, slimmed down to only  353 pages and omitting the controversial proposal to privatize  air …

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Airplanes Helping Airplanes – Drones in the Aircraft Maintenance World

Given how few airline accidents have occurred over the past 20 years, people rarely give a second thought to whether or not the aircraft they are boarding is mechanically reliable.  If they did look into the matter, they would likely be surprised to see how much work goes into making sure the aircraft is in working order.  Maintenance of an airliner is both time and manpower intensive, and results in each aircraft being unavailable for revenue generation for an extended period of time.  As a result, any technology that can reduce either the amount of personnel or the amount of …

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The Aviation Symposium Webinar Series Presents:

Aviation and The SAFETY Act: Limiting Your Liability Whether you’re an airline, manufacturer, service provider, airport, or any other aviation business, you cannot miss this webinar. Nearly every business that interacts with the public faces a threat of terrorism. Companies at the front end include air, bus and rail transport companies. Businesses where people gather, as well as businesses that manage critical infrastructure, all face the same threat.

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Christa Hinckley Joins the LeClairRyan Aviation Team

Plane-ly Spoken is pleased to report that Christa Hinckley has joined LeClairRyan as a partner on the firm’s aviation and transportation industry team.  Her practice focuses on matters related to aviation, aviation insurance, and emergency response and crisis preparedness in the transportation industry.  Christa will be resident in the firm’s Houston office. Christa has extensive experience representing flight departments of international corporations, in addition to advising charter operators, management companies, and scheduled air carriers.  She brings to her position a wealth of legal and management experience in issues affecting the aviation industry, including mergers and acquisitions, aviation treaties, regulatory compliance, …

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2017: The Year of Much Ado…But Nothing!

In terms of major UAS rulemaking efforts, 2017 could best be described as “the year that wasn’t”.  While the FAA had big plans to push forward the new rules for flight over people and finalize the Interpretation of the Special Rules for Model Aircraft, neither of those initiatives saw the light of day. Now, however, it appears that the FAA is gearing up the rulemaking process for 2018.  It is reported that in a recent speech at the Singapore Airshow, FAA Acting Deputy Administrator Carl Burleson announced that the UAS remote identification regulations would be out this year. 

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Privacy is None of the FAA’s Business

While most people agree that unmanned aircraft raise unique privacy issues, the question remains who is in the best position to deal with those concerns.  The FAA has repeatedly indicated that it does not have the resources, expertise, or inclination to be the nation’s drone privacy watchdog.  As a result, privacy issues continue to be worked out at the state and local levels. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) disagrees with this approach, and has spent years attempting to force the FAA to conduct a comprehensive rulemaking on drone privacy and enforcement.  After several false starts, the United States Court …

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DOT v. FAA: Oversight of regional Air Carriers

A just-released report by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG) points to the importance of the regional airline industry in safely transporting passengers, economic changes buffeting the industry, and difficulties encountered by the FAA in monitoring, overseeing, and responding to these economic changes. The OIG prepared the report, FAA Oversight Is Not Keeping Pace With Changes Occurring in the Regional Airline Industry, in response to a request by the ranking members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation. It’s worth a read.

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Voluntary Disclosure Reporting Program Gets Extended to Drug and Alcohol Programs, Unless…

The Federal Aviation Administration relies heavily on voluntary compliance with its regulations.  As part of its strategy, the FAA encourages regulated entities to participate in voluntary disclosure reporting programs (VDRP) to ensure that sporadic issues do not become systemic problems.  The idea is that if an employer detects a problem and takes immediate, strong corrective action, the FAA will forgo issuing a civil penalty for the violation. The FAA just recently issued a new Advisory Circular (AC 120-117) that details how regulated entities may take advantage of the VDRP for violations of the drug and alcohol testing regulations contained in …

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Drone v. Helicopter: And the loser is…

The NTSB Report into the midair collision between a DJI Phantom and an army Blackhawk helicopter has been released and not surprisingly, the probable cause of the accident was sUAS pilot error. On September 21, 2017, an army UH-60 helicopter was operating in class G airspace at an altitude of 300 feet near Staten Island, New York.  The pilot saw the UAS and took evasive action, but it was insufficient to avoid the collision.  The helicopter suffered a 1.5 inch dent in its main rotor and cracks in the composite fairing and a window frame.  The Phantom was destroyed with …

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“Sir/Madam, Show Me Your License and Registration”

The long and tortured path to mandatory registration of all hobby aircraft appears finally to be at an end.  After a seven month hiatus, the law is changing once again, and the registration requirement is being reinstated. As most of you will remember, the FAA unexpectedly issued regulations on an emergency basis just before Christmas 2015 that required all hobby aircraft under .55 pounds to be registered with the FAA. 

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