By Keith Laing - 12/06/11 10:22 PM EST
Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt has resigned from his position after being arrested last weekend on charges of drunk driving.
Babbitt, 65, was arrested Saturday night in Fairfax, Va., after a police officer spotted him driving on the wrong side of the road. The Department of Transportation said after news of the arrest broke Monday that he was placed on administrative leave and that his employment status was being evaluated by lawyers.
"Serving as FAA Administrator has been an absolute honor and the highlight of my professional career," Babbitt said in a statement released by the FAA. "But I am 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. They run the finest and safest aviation system in the world and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work alongside them."
Babbitt said he was "confident" in the agency's "ability to successfully carry out all of the critical safety initiatives underway and the improvements that the FAA has planned" without him.
LaHood, who said earlier Tuesday that he was "very disappointed" in Babbitt's arrest, later issued a statement thanking Babbitt "for his service and his leadership.”
“As FAA Administrator, Randy Babbitt has been a dedicated public servant and outstanding leader. 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," LaHood said, adding that Babbitt "led the FAA’s efforts to improve pilot training and enhance safety for the traveling public, as well as those that work in aviation."
Babbitt, a former airline pilot, was appointed to head the FAA by President Obama in 2009. He was in the middle of a five-year term, and he told The Hill, which profiled him last week, that he did not plan to seek re-appointment.
“I’m serving a five-year term," Babbitt said of the job, which he called "fascinating" last week. "When it ends, it ends.”