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FAA Administrator Babbitt arrested for DWI

- The Washington Times - Monday, December 5, 2011

The administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration was placed on a leave of absence Monday after he was arrested and charged in Fairfax City over the weekend with driving while intoxicated.

U.S. Department of Transportation officials said they learned of Randy Babbitt's arrest on Monday and were in discussions with legal counsel about his employment status. FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta will serve as acting administrator in Mr. Babbitt's absence.

President Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, told reporters on Monday afternoon that the president had just learned about the incident and "reacted as you might expect." He did not indicate whether Mr. Obama would demand Mr. Babbitt's resignation.

Fairfax City police said they stopped Mr. Babbitt, 65, on Saturday night after an officer observed Mr. Babbitt driving down the wrong side of the road in the 3900 block of Old Lee Highway.

"There wasn't an accident. There wasn't anyone hurt," Fairfax City police spokesman Sgt. Joe Johnson said.

Mr. Babbitt, of Reston, was the only person in the car when he was pulled over, and he cooperated fully with arresting officers, police said.

Police determined Mr. Babbitt was under the influence of alcohol and he was arrested. Sgt. Johnson said police would not release information about Mr. Babbitt's blood alcohol level.

Mr. Babbitt was released on a personal recognizance bond, police said.

At his own request, Mr. Babbitt was placed on a leave of absence from the FAA, a position he's held since his appointment in 2009, Department of Transportation officials said in a statement Monday.

Mr. Babbitt, a pilot with Eastern Airlines for 25 years, has held several positions with the FAA over the past 10 years.

In 2001, he became a member of the FAA's Management Advisory Council and served as chairman of the council from 2004 to 2006. He left the international management consulting firm Oliver Wyman in 2009 to take the job of administrator with the FAA.

He proposed new rules limiting how many hours airline pilots can fly in an effort to curb pilot fatigue and reversed a ban on flying by pilots taking antidepressants.

He also presided over the agency during a string of embarrassing incidents in which overworked air-traffic controllers were caught asleep at their posts. During one of the incidents in March at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, two planes were forced to land without aid from the control tower.

Susan Crabtree contributed to this report.

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