FAA Director Resigns on Heels of DUI Charge

As reported by USA Today, below, there’s not much to go on in this article, legally speaking, because no facts are reporting regarding the events surrounding the arrest, i.e. why he was stopped, why they believed him to be potentially under the influence, what gave them probable cause to arrest him, and whether or not he took a blood alcohol test. However, as a criminal defense lawyer and a citizen who believes in the legal system, this is another sad story of a person being forced from his job due to speculation only. Remember innocent until proven guilty?

USA Today Article:

Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt officially tendered his resignation Tuesday, a move many had already assumed to be a foregone conclusion.

Babbitt’s resignation comes after it was reported he was arrested in Washington’s northern Virginia suburbs on charges of driving while intoxicated.

“I am unwilling to let anything cast a shadow on the outstanding work done 24 hours a day, seven days a week by my colleagues at the FAA,” Babbitt is quoted as saying by The Associated Press. “They run the finest and safest aviation system in the world and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work alongside them.”

The loss of Babbitt was lamented by many in the industry, where the former Eastern pilot had earned much respect in his role as FAA chief.

Despite that, few saw any openings for Babbitt to remain in his post after his DWI arrest became public.

As The Washington Post puts it:

Babbitt’s ouster seemed inevitable after (Ray) LaHood, the transportation secretary, first learned of the arrest from a police news release more than 36 hours after the incident.

“What I told Randy is that I was very disappointed with the way that I learned about this,” LaHood said Tuesday afternoon, hours before Babbitt’s resignation.

Babbitt’s departure, less than halfway through his five-year term, leaves the FAA in turmoil, beset by a series of recent stumbles, facing funding uncertainty and tasked with developing a $40 billion guidance system based on the Global Positioning System that is expected to revolutionize air travel.

Given LaHood’s mantra of “safety” above all else and his commitment to combating drunken driving, he was thrust into an untenable position.

Reuters adds:

While the incident and resignation are not expected to give the White House political headaches, his departure leaves a sizable hole in an FAA that was in turmoil when he arrived.

Babbitt inherited an agency that had been without a permanent leader for nearly two years and was wracked by a contract dispute between the Bush administration and 15,000 air traffic controllers.

He was respected by Republicans and Democrats for his ability to resolve labor tensions with a new contract and push through a series of safety measures, including the pilot training rules.

Looking ahead, Babbitt’s departure will elevate Michael Huerta – currently the agency’s No. 2 official – to acting Administrator, a position he’s likely to hold for at least the next year.

The Associated Press expands on that, saying Babbitt’s sudden resignation … leaves the Federal Aviation Administration in the hands of Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta, who’s a well-regarded manager but lacks his predecessor’s insider knowledge of the nation’s airlines. … Industry officials and lawmakers said they expect him to continue in the post through next year since the White House probably will want to avoid a possible nomination fight before the Nov. 6 presidential election.”

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