The news of the day in aviation circles concerns FAA administrator Randy Babbitt, who was arrested Saturday night in Washington's Virginia suburbs and charged with driving while intoxicated. Babbitt, who was placed on administrative leave Monday, was known as the FAA administrator who actually really knew aviation. But it's unlikely his strong aviation background, or his genial personality, will allow him to hold onto his job.
Babbitt's boss, US transportation secretary Ray LaHood, is big on road safety. "Too many of our friends and neighbors are killed in preventable roadway tragedies every day," he has said. "We will continue doing everything possible to make cars safer, increase seat belt use, put a stop to drunk driving and distracted driving and encourage drivers to put safety first."
He has crusaded against "texting while driving," including issuing a federal rule prohibiting drivers of commercial vehicles, such as large trucks and buses, from texting behind the wheel. He has held a "distracted driving summit." It is hard to see LaHood, who backed Babbitt during the sleeping controller controversy, comfortable with having an alleged drunk driver as a high-profile lieutenant.
Also working against Babbitt: in the Dept. of Transportation's rather brief statement issued Monday afternoon announcing that Babbitt had been placed on leave, a point was made of noting that DOT officials had not learned of the Saturday night arrest until Monday afternoon. President Obama's press secretary said that the White House had also been in the dark until Monday. That means Babbitt failed to inform LaHood and/or the White House about the arrest for more than 36 hours, leaving government bigwigs flatfooted when the news trickled out via the Fairfax County (Virginia) police Monday.
Bottom line: Babbitt has probably served his last day as FAA head. -Aaron Karp