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.

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.

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“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.  …

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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 …

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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. 

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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 …

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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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