By Keith Laing
Babbitt's time at the FAA, which began when he was appointed by President Obama in 2009, had its rocky moments. A series of reports that air traffic controllers were falling asleep in flight towers across the country rocked the department in early 2011, as did an incident involving an air traffic control error on a flight containing First Lady Michelle Obama.
Additionally, a fight over the agencies funding in Congress lead to a string of 22 short-term extensions that stretched from 2007 until the month after Babbitt left office. Babbitt had argued that it was difficult to run the 49,000-employee agency without multiyear funding.
Those incidents notwithstanding, however, in a statement released at the time of his resignation, Babbitt called his time at the helm of the FAA "an absolute honor and the highlight of my professional career."
Babbitt said at the time that he resigned because he was "unwilling to let anything cast a shadow on the outstanding work done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by my colleagues at the FAA."
The Hill conducted one of the final interviews with Babbitt before his resignation, which was published on the Transportation Report the day before his arrest.
In the profile, Babbitt said he planned to stay in his job at the FAA through the end of the term President Obama appointed him to, which would have ended in 2013.
“It’s a fascinating job,” Babbitt told The Hill in December. “It’s my first time serving in the public sector, and I’ve worked with wonderful people.”
But he quickly added: “I’m serving a five-year term. When it ends, it ends.”
Babbitt was replaced by former Deputy FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, who was appointed to a five-year term of his own by President Obama in March.