Former pilots' union chief tapped for FAA administrator

March 27, 2009

The White House announced March 27 its nomination for FAA administrator: Randy Babbitt, an experienced pilot, aviation and labor relations consultant, and former president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

“AOPA welcomes the announcement of Randy Babbitt as President Obama’s choice to head the Federal Aviation Administration,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller.

“Mr. Babbitt is a pilot, the former head of the Air Line Pilots Association, and an advisor on air traffic control modernization, and AOPA looks forward to working with the new administrator once he has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate.”

Babbitt served as ALPA president during the 1990s and now works as a consultant at the firm Oliver Wyman. If confirmed, he will lead the FAA through the process of funding authorization and oversee the modernization of the air traffic control system.

AOPA began working with the new administration upon the election of President Barack Obama, meeting with the transition team and writing a letter to the president-elect. The association emphasized that the new FAA Administrator needed to have technical and people-management skills, combined with an understanding of the aviation industry and the political acumen necessary to lead the organization as it faces multiple challenges, including determining an efficient long-term funding strategy and transitioning to the NextGen satellite-based navigation system.

One of the primary challenges facing the FAA and its new administrator this year is to establish a plan for funding FAA operations and infrastructure improvements. The agency has been operating under a series of temporary funding extensions since the last four-year reauthorization ran out in 2007. AOPA supports The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009 recently introduced in the House of Representatives, which would provide much needed investment in safety, ATC modernization, FAA operations, airport improvements, and aviation research without introducing user fees.