Bye-bye, Babbitt: DUI ends FAA chief’s career

Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt resigned today, two days after he was arrested and charged with drunk driving.

Babbitt, 65, of Reston, Va., posted this message to the FAA’s website today:

“Today I submitted my resignation to Secretary Ray LaHood and it has been accepted. Serving as FAA Administrator has been an absolute honor and the highlight of my professional career. 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. I am confident in their ability to successfully carry out all of the critical safety initiatives underway and the improvements that the FAA has planned. I also want to thank Secretary LaHood for his leadership and dedication to the safety of the traveling public.”

Fairfax, Va., police said Babbitt was arrested at about 10:30 p.m. EST Saturday after an officer saw him driving on the wrong side of the road; he was cooperative, was charged, and was released on his own recognizance. Police announced the arrest Sunday under a departmental policy that “the arrest of any City or school system official or employee, any elected or appointed local, state or federal government official, or any local, state or federal law enforcement officer for any criminal charge or serious traffic charge (e.g., driving under the influence, reckless driving)” will be released.

Note to all political appointees: Your first phone call after arrest should be to your boss, because he/she won’t want to hear about it first from someone else. According to the Washington Post, White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama and Transportation Department officials didn’t learn of the arrest until Monday afternoon, only about an hour before a statement was released saying Babbitt had been placed on leave at his own request.

Babbitt was in Oakland in September with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, calling for a permanent reauthorization of funding for the FAA.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.