FAA chief on leave after DWI arrest

December 5, 2011

The Department of Transportation was reviewing FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt’s “employment status” after he was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated over the weekend, said a statement from the agency. Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta was named acting administrator.

Babbitt was placed on leave Dec. 5 after being arrested in Fairfax, Va., Dec. 3, said published reports. The arrest came after a police officer saw him driving on the wrong side of a road, the reports said.

“DOT officials learned early Monday afternoon of FAA Administrator Babbitt’s arrest on Saturday night,” said a statement issued Dec. 5. “Administrator Babbitt has requested, effective immediately, to take a leave of absence from the FAA.  That request has been granted and Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta will serve as acting administrator. DOT officials are in discussions with legal counsel about Administrator Babbitt’s employment status.”

Babbitt faces a Feb. 2 court hearing.

AOPA President Craig Fuller cautioned against rushing to judgment. “At moments like this there tends to be a rush to judgment in Washington, D.C.,” Fuller said. “FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt brings considerable passion, experience, and skills to a position that is vital to the aviation community. I would hope that a decision to go on administrative leave will afford him and others in the administration the time to carefully weigh important personal and professional factors before the fate of one so dedicated is decided.”

A Washington Post blog and other news accounts said that Babbitt was alone in the vehicle when he was stopped at about 10:30 p.m. on the Old Lee Highway. The traffic stop was not the result of an accident, the reports said. Babbitt was released on a personal recognizance bond.

Babbitt, 65, was sworn in as the FAA’s sixteenth administrator on June 1, 2009. Previously he was a pilot for Eastern Airlines for 25 years, and a management consultant, according to this profile on the FAA’s website.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.