Pipeline Companies Should Do More to Prepare for NTSB Accident Investigations

–Executives, employees and contractors should know the specifics of federal agency’s process, caution LeClairRyan attorneys; Massachusetts explosions highlight NTSB’s role in oil and gas sector.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is well known for its sleuthing on plane crashes. However, oil and gas executives often need better education about how the agency tackles one of its other responsibilities—investigating pipeline accidents, advise veteran attorneys with the national law firm LeClairRyan.

The catastrophic gas explosions that destroyed dozens of homes in Massachusetts this month have called attention to the NTSB’s role in investigating such incidents, noted Mark A. Dombroff, an Alexandria-based member of LeClairRyan and co-leader of its Transportation Industry practice. “Most, but not all, in the pipeline business are aware that something like this will immediately trigger a federally mandated and led investigation,” he said. “But their counterparts in aviation tend to be far better prepared to contend with the highly specific—and high-stakes—investigative process relied upon by NTSB.”


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

Note: Given the previous delays from Capitol Hill, we have postponed the below webinar on the FAA Reauthorization Act several times. On October 4, we will cover the Act as it stands as of the date of the webinar, regardless of where it is in the process.

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 summer, the focus has been on the United States Senate, where all points indicate a similar bill is likely to be passed by the end of September/early October.

In this complimentary 90-minute webinar, Mark Dombroff, Mark McKinnon, and special guest panelist Jim Williams of JHW Unmanned Solutions LLC will unpack the hundreds of pages of legislation, explain what it means for the aviation industry, and explore its impact on the following areas:

  • Integration of unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System,
  • Changes to aircraft certification requirements and procedures,
  • The FAA’s ongoing restructuring efforts,
  • Revisions to rest and duty rules for flight crews,
  • Modifications to the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP),
  • Efforts to strengthen cybersecurity,
  • New studies and regulations affecting privacy,
  • Changes to passenger rights,
  • Funding for the Airport Improvement Program,
  • Changes to the regulation of model aircraft.

As always, the audience will also have an opportunity to ask questions and shape the discussion. You will not want to miss this no-holds-barred discussion of how this important legislation will impact all aspects of aviation.

Join us for this complimentary 90-minute webinar.

Date: Thursday October 4, 2018

Time: 1:00 – 2:30 pm ET

Event Number: 790 321 319

Event Password: 0919Reauthor

Please register by 11:30 am on Thursday, October 4, 2018.


If you have any questions or concerns, please email AskAviation@leclairryan.com.

Upcoming Webinar – Pipelines and the SAFETY Act: Limiting Your Liability

This free webinar, from our Emergency Response and Preparedness Practice Attorneys, is not only for pipeline companies, it can provide information for airports, insurance risk managers, and other pipeline related UAS operators.

LeClairRyan and the Energy Drone Coalition are pleased to present this webinar, which will explain how pipeline companies can leverage their existing processes to obtain DHS certification that limits liability in the event of a terrorist attack.  As pipeline operators are aware, the terrorist risk they face is broader and more multifarious than the risks faced by other industries. The government’s recognition of this risk is evident from the TSA’s creation of Pipeline Security Guidelines.  What you might not know is the procedures you already have in place to minimize the risk of intentional damage to critical infrastructure can also save your company from ruinous monetary judgments through the protections afforded by the SAFETY Act.


Perception Is Reality

On August 28th the Denver Post reported that the Denver Police Department had shelved a consumer-grade drone recently purchased for nearly $3,000 after the administration nixed the crime lab’s plan to use it to photograph crime scenes.  Meanwhile, the Denver Fire Department intends to move forward with plans to purchase an Aeryon SkyRanger to use when dealing with all sorts of incidents, including structure fires, hazardous material spills and rescues. The difference between the failure of one program and the likely success of the other appears to turn on public perception.

This real world example highlights the critically important task of considering the risk or benefit to your reputation or brand as a result of your drone program.  Members of the public often have a visceral, negative reaction to drones. A poorly implemented program can anger customers, industry partners, and the public, thereby tarnishing a well-earned reputation and cause the demise of your program. At the extreme, angry landowners have been known to shoot down drones.  On the other hand, a well implemented program can position you as an industry leader using cutting-edge technology to provide the best, most reliable electric service while ensuring the safety of your employees.


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Today’s FAA Reauthorization Act Webinar – moved to Sept. 19th

Everyone – Once again, the general optimism that the Senate finally had its act together and was going to vote on FAA Reauthorization has given way to disappointment.  Despite numerous aviation groups writing Senator McConnell urging quick action, there is still no vote scheduled.  According to recent reports, the process is still mired in “behind the scenes” partisan wrangling over efforts to address non-aviation issues in this must “pass bill,” such as mandatory trucker rest periods and President Trump’s tariff authority.

Because of all of these delays, LeClairRyan will be postponing its free webinar on the FAA Reauthorization until September 19, 2018.  Hopefully by then we will have an actual FAA Reauthorization Act that we can analyze in detail.

Thank you for your patience (again).  If you have already registered an email update will come from messenger@webex.com. If you have not yet signed up you can Register here. Please register by 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, September 19.

Topic: The FAA Reauthorization Act- What Is In It and What Does It Mean for You? (Rescheduled from Aug. 22, 2018)
Date and Time: Wednesday, September 19, 2018 1:00 pm, Eastern Daylight Time (New York, GMT-04:00)

Event page: https://www.leclairryan.com/events/xprEventsDetail.aspx?xpST=EventDetail&event=556
Event number: 790 321 319
Event password: 0919Reauthor

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, but fortunately, he was not murderous. After his joyride in the aircraft, it appears he intentionally crashed the plane into an uninhabited area.  But what if his intentions had been different?  Once he was airborne, it would have been a simple task for him to have crashed the plane, and its full load of fuel, into the terminal or another aircraft full of passengers.  During a busy travel day, the potential loss of life would be staggering.


Save the Date for The 2019 Aviation Symposium

If you don’t know how to say “An Airplane Is Down . . . In a Foreign County” in Spanish, Farsi, Chinese or German, you must attend The 2019 LeClairRyan Aviation Symposium!

In our 13th annual symposium, we will focus on, among other things, aviation accidents, incidents and events occurring outside the United States.  Discussions will cover a whole host of issues, problems and challenges you face when flying outside the United States, including panels on recent changes in the Flight Standards Service of the FAA and what to expect in 2019; how to write reports involving accidents, incident or events . . . and what not to write;  and many more highly topical subjects.

As always, the Symposium will be held at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner, Virginia. In the coming weeks we will share details and links for hotel accommodations. Make sure you book as soon as you can, as we have run out of rooms in the past.

This complimentary Symposium provides meals, refreshment and most importantly, CLE Credits. So mark your calendars for February 5-7, 2019 for this spectacular event. We look forward to seeing you all!


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.

The Aviation Symposium Webinar Series Presents: Waivers, Exemptions and Certifications

Waivers, Exemptions, and Certifications:

How to get permission to do what you want with your Unmanned Aircraft

Part 107 has been a tremendous boon to businesses that want to operate unmanned aircraft. Unfortunately, there is still a great deal that cannot be done without special permission. But rest assured, this can be done legally, if you know how.

During this webinar, we will explore what methods are available to obtain permission from the FAA to conduct complex operations beyond the narrow confines of Part 107. We will explore topics such as:

  • What rules can be waived?
  • How do you get a waiver?
  • Can waivers be combined for more complex operations, and how does that affect the process?
  • Does the old exemption process still exist and what is it used for?
  • Are there operations that would require a “certified aircraft”?
  • What is a certified aircraft?
  • What different types of certification are available, and what are their limitations?
  • Are there other certificates that are needed even if one has a certified aircraft?
  • As always, we will also bring you up to date on all of the recent legal developments affecting the UAS industry.

Join Mark Dombroff and Mark McKinnon of the LeClairRyan aviation practice for this free webinar on August 8 at 1–2:30 pm ET, and learn how to use the rules to your advantage and get ahead of your competition.

Register here.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email AskAviation@leclairryan.com.

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 laws regarding the use of unmanned aircraft. These laws vary wildly in what they permit and prohibit.  Right now, however, the NCCUSL is working on solving this problem by creating the uniform Tort Law Relating To Drones Act.  As with the Uniform Commercial Code, the NCCUSL hopes that every state will quickly adopt the Act as the basis for its state drone laws.


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