FAA chief Babbitt placed on leave after drunk driving arrest

Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt has been placed on administrative leave after being arrested this weekend for driving while intoxicated, Department of Transportation officials said Monday.


Babbitt was arrested Saturday night in Fairfax, Va., after a police officer spotted him driving on the wrong side of the road. The Washington Post first reported news of the arrest, which the DOT said it learned about the arrest early Monday afternoon.

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"Administrator Babbitt has requested, effective immediately, to take a leave of absence from the FAA," the agency said in a statement. "That request has been granted and Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta will serve as acting administrator.

The agency said Babbitt, who is a former airline pilot who was profiled by The Hill last Friday, could face further penalties for his arrest.

"DOT officials are in discussions with legal counsel about Administrator Babbitt’s employment status," the agency said.

The report on Babbitt's arrest said he was released on his own recognizance by the Fairfax County Police Department. Babbitt, who resides in Reston, Va., was reportedly driving alone and not involved in a car accident.

Babbitt was appointed to head the FAA by President Obama in 2009. He is in the middle of a five-year term, and he told The Hill last week he did not plan to seek re-appointment.

“It’s a fascinating job,” Babbitt said last week of his time so far at the FAA. “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.”

In The Hill's profile of Babbitt, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood hailed Babbitt for a being a "champion for safety."

"His background as a pilot makes him a perfect fit for FAA administrator since he understands what it takes to be a true safety professional and how much trust the American people are placing in us to help them reach their destinations safely,” LaHood said in a statement last week.

In addition to running the FAA, Babbitt has also previously served as president of the Washington, D.C.-based Air Line Pilots Association.

This story was updated at 2:13 p.m.