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.

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, …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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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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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 …

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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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Summer Flying, Emergencies and Temporary Flight Restrictions

Summer is nearly upon us, bringing with it good weather for flying your unmanned aircraft.  Summer also brings, however, an increase in certain types of natural disasters, such as wildfires, hurricanes, and storms that produce flooding, which in turn bring Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) from the FAA. So, in the interests of helping everyone have a safe and productive summer, Plane-ly Spoken feels it is important to brush up on the subject of TFRs.

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The UAS Webinar Series Presents: Drones and Natural Disasters

What you can do after a disaster and how  do you get permission to do it? Whether you’re a public utility, an insurance company, a UAS service provider, or any other business that must respond in the aftermath of a disaster, you cannot miss this webinar. Prior to last year, it was difficult, if not impossible, to obtain permission to fly a UAS in the aftermath of a disaster. The flight rules were restrictive and the FAA and first responders were primarily concerned with keeping the airspace clear for manned aircraft. That all changed last summer. In the wake of …

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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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