Babbitt steps down as FAA administrator

December 6, 2011

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt resigned Dec. 6, three days after he was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated in Fairfax, Va.

“Today I submitted my resignation to (Transportation) Secretary Ray LaHood and it has been accepted,” he said in a statement released the afternoon of Dec. 6. “Serving as FAA Administrator has been an absolute honor and the highlight of my professional career. But I am unwilling to let anything cast a shadow on the outstanding work done 24 hours a day, seven days a week by my colleagues at the FAA. They run the finest and safest aviation system in the world and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work alongside them. I am confident in their ability to successfully carry out all of the critical safety initiatives underway and the improvements that the FAA has planned. I also want to thank Secretary LaHood for his leadership and dedication to the safety of the traveling public.”

Babbitt had requested and been granted a leave of absence Dec. 5 after LaHood and other administration officials said they had learned of the arrest only that day. Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta was named acting administrator.

"Randy Babbitt always impressed me as a principled individual who does the right thing," said AOPA President Craig Fuller. "Today, he determined that means turning over the leadership of the FAA to Acting Administrator Michael Huerta. As FAA administrator, Randy Babbitt worked diligently to ensure that the U.S. aviation system remains the safest in the world. We will respect and miss his leadership; however, we at AOPA have full confidence that the commitment to safety and the progress made over the past few years on a wide range of issues important to our 400,000 members will continue under the strong and effective direction of Acting Administrator Michael Huerta."

AOPA reported Dec. 5 that Babbitt, 65, was arrested in Fairfax after a police officer saw him driving the wrong way on a four-lane road at about 10:30 p.m. Dec. 3. Babbitt was alone in the vehicle, and there had not been an accident. Babbitt reportedly cooperated with authorities and was released on his own recognizance pending court action schedule for Feb 2.

Babbitt, a former airline pilot, had served as FAA administrator since June 2009.

“As FAA Administrator, Randy Babbitt has been a dedicated public servant and outstanding leader,” said LaHood. “I’m proud to say that we have the safest aviation system in the world, and thanks to Randy’s stewardship, it became safer and stronger. He worked tirelessly to improve relations with the labor community and bolstered employee engagement among his 49,000 colleagues at the FAA. He led the FAA’s efforts to improve pilot training and enhance safety for the traveling public, as well as those that work in aviation. On behalf of the American people, I thank him for his service and his leadership.”

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.