FAA head Babbitt takes voluntary leave of absence
Jerome Randolph "Randy" Babbitt, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, is taking a voluntary leave of absence from his post after being arrested over the weekend for drunk driving, according to the Transportation Department.
Babbitt was charged with drunk driving Saturday night by police in Fairfax, Va., The Washington Post reported. Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta will serve as acting FAA head, according to Transportation's statement.
The Post said Babbitt, a former pilot who flew for 25 years for Eastern Airlines and was sworn in as FAA administrator in June 2009, faces a Feb. 2, 2012, court appearance. He was reportedly alone in his vehicle at 10:30 p.m. and was not involved in any accident. He was driving on the wrong side of Old Lee Highway, according to the arresting officer.
Babbitt also has served as president of the Air Line Pilots Association and as a member of FAA's Management Advisory Council. He came under scrutiny earlier this year after numerous reports surfaced of air traffic controllers falling asleep at their posts.
The commonwealth of Virginia has some of the toughest drunk driving laws in the country. Though Fairfax police don't release information on the blood-alcohol level of those charged, Babbitt will at the minimum face a $250 fine and a one-year revoked license.
In its statement, Transportation said it only learned of the arrest early Monday afternoon. This year, the department launched a new ad campaign to reduce distracted driving.
A spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association declined to comment on the implications of Babbitt's leave when reached Monday. The Airports Council International - North America also had no comment. The Air Line Pilots Association office was closed for an employee event.