Randy Babbitt resigned late Tuesday as FAA Administrator two days after he was arrested in Fairfax, Virginia, for alleged drunk driving. Fairfax police said that the administrator was driving on the wrong side of the road. It is the policy of Fairfax police to release the names of public officials they arrest and to not release the results of blood alcohol tests conducted on suspects. The legal limit in Virginia is .08.
One Washington insider who spoke to Flying on the condition that his name not be made public, said that Babbitt’s departure was likely hastened by the fact that he had failed to disclose his arrest to his boss, DoT Secretary Ray LaHood, for two days following the traffic stop. LaHood originally said that he was disappointed by the news. On Tuesday, after Babbitt’s resignation was announced, LaHood thanked Babbitt for his service, noting the advances in safety that the now-former administrator had shepherded.
Babbitt, a former airline pilot with strong aviation ties, was confirmed as FAA head in 2009 and made a name for himself as an administrator who could work with the various factions, from the airlines to users and Congress, in order to make changes in aviation regulation and infrastructure. He oversaw the renewed commitment to NextGen, embraced modernizing regulation, enforcement and certification, including testing, and was a surprisingly staunch advocate for general aviation. In a statement announcing his departure, Babbitt said, "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."
One of those former employees, Michael Huerta, will take Babbitt’s place. Huerta was formerly deputy administrator. While Huerta lacks Babbitt’s industry connections, he is highly regarded for his ability to manage programs. Babbitt placed him in charge of NextGen, a program that regained momentum under his watch. Huerta is expected to continue as acting administrator throughout the remainder of the election season.