FAA Chief Quits after DUI Arrest

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Los Angeles DUI lawyers are not exactly unfamiliar with DUI arrests involving lawmakers and bureaucrats. However, the arrest of Federal Aviation Administration chief Randy Babbitt for DUI last week is a major incident, because it involves a high-ranking official of the Obama administration.

On December 3, Babbitt was arrested in Fairfax, Virginia. Police officers pulled him over after they found him driving on the wrong side of the road. 65-year-old Babbitt was found to be driving under the influence, although there is no information about how much he scored on the breath test. He was charged with driving while intoxicated.

It was his 2nd DUI offense in Fairfax in 5 years. In 2006, he had also been convicted of speeding, and had paid a $500 fine in that case. Last week, Babbitt announced his resignation from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The resignation couldn't have come at a worse time for the federal aviation agency, which has been grappling with a number of safety issues recently. These issues include a number of incidents around the country involving air traffic controllers who fell asleep on the job, leading to some near-adverse events. Over a period of several weeks, at least 9 air traffic controllers either dozed off on the job or were not available to pilots while on duty. The Federal Aviation Administration under Babbitt's leadership had been working on ways to reduce air traffic controller fatigue. Those efforts are likely to now be delayed. He was also closely involved in aviation reform after the Colgan Air plane Crash in New York in 2009.

At the time of his appointment in 2009, Babbitt was an internationally recognized aviation expert. He had 25 years of experience with Eastern Airlines, and had also served as president of the Airline Pilots Association. That record is likely to be tainted by his ignominious departure from the FAA under a DUI cloud.