Mark E. McKinnon

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Mark has worked for over 23 years in all areas of aviation and transportation law, including litigation, appellate, regulatory and other administrative matters. He is a founding member of the firm's Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) practice and has written and spoken extensively on 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.    

Mark began his career as a law clerk for the Honorable Richard Suhrheinrich on both the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, giving him valuable insights into all aspects of the operations of the federal courts. Mark has extensive appellate and litigation experience in a wide range of areas including foreign and domestic mass disasters, multidistrict litigation, federal aviation regulatory and enforcement actions, insurance coverage, complex commercial litigation involving intellectual property and unfair trade practices, the Federal Tort Claims Act, and government contractor actions.

Mark has also litigated and advised clients on numerous aspects of international air transportation, including the application of the Warsaw Convention, Hague Convention, Montreal Protocols, Montreal Convention, and International Civil Aviation Organization’s International Standards and Recommended Practices.

Mark has assisted a number of clients in their efforts to obtain approval of their commercial UAS operations, including preparation and filing of exemptions and development of Operations Manuals.

Mark has represented clients in cases pending before the Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh and the District of Columbia Circuits, the United States Supreme Court, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the Florida Court of Appeals, Ohio Court of Appeals, Ohio Supreme Court, Mississippi Supreme Court, and national Transportation safety Board. Mr. McKinnon has also represented clients in a number of international arbitrations, including proceedings in Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa.


  • In re Air Crash Disaster off Point Mugu, California: Mark worked on all aspects of the litigation arising from the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261, including proceedings before the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration. The occurrence of the accident in waters outside state territorial limits, and also outside the scope of the Death on the High Seas Act required application of maritime law to complex aviation accident issues.
  • Crane Co v. Kitzinger: Appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court of a liability and seven figure punitive damage award for an accident involving a maritime elevator on an offshore oil platform. The Court reversed and remanded for a new trial on all issues.
  • 9/11 Litigation: Mark worked on numerous aspects of the litigation arising from the tragic events of September 11, 2001, including representation of several airports involved in the litigation and coverage issues involving several security firms.

Activities and Affiliations


  • Keynote Speaker, "UAS Integration into the National Airspace," Drone Expo Los Angeles, December 2014
  • Speaker, "UAS Regulation and Certification in the US and Foreign Countries," Airline Pilot's Association, Positioning the US Airline Industry for Success, December 2014
  • Speaker, "Lessons Learned from the Concorde Disaster," 2014 Global Foreign Object Damage Prevention Conference, December 2014
  • Panelist, American Association of Airport Executive's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Workshop, Reno, Nevada, November 2014
  • Speaker, "Current UAS Regulatory Landscape," MRO Symposium, September 2014
  • Panelist, "UAS Insurance and Liability Issues," AUVSI Workshop - Getting Airborne with UAS, August 2014
  • Panelist, "FAA Enforcement Actions Against UAS Operators," UAS Symposium. June 2014

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