U.S. FAA chief on leave after drunk driving arrest

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– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Randy Babbitt out of the cockpit for now
Phuket Gazette / News Wires

PHUKET: U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt took a leave of absence yesterday afternoon after police revealed he was arrested for drunk driving over the weekend, officials said.

Babbitt was arrested in Fairfax, Virginia late Saturday evening when a police officer observed a vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road and stopped it.

“After it was determined that he was under the influence of alcohol, Babbitt was transported to the Adult Detention Center where a magistrate issued a warrant for driving while intoxicated,” said Sergeant Joe Johnson, a spokesperson for the City of Fairfax Police Department.

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Johnson said Babbitt was the sole occupant of his vehicle and was not involved in any accident. “He cooperated fully with the arresting officer,” the spokesman said. Officials did not release the blood-alcohol level, but state law defines DWI as a .08 blood alcohol concentration.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of Transportation said it only learned of Babbitt’s arrest on Monday afternoon.

“Administrator Babbitt has requested, effective immediately, to take a leave of absence from the FAA,” the statement said. “That request has been granted and Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta will serve as acting administrator.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama and other White House officials were also informed about the arrest on Monday afternoon. “[Obama] didn’t have a particular reaction,” Carney said. “It was just passing on this information.”

Carney did not respond to a question whether Obama would ask for Babbitt to resign, but the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) said it is reviewing Babbitt’s position.

“DOT officials are in discussions with legal counsel about Administrator Babbitt’s employment status,” the statement said.

Babbitt has served as Administrator of the FAA, which regulates and oversees all aspects of civil aviation in the United States, since June 2009. He previously served at the FAA Management Advisory Council during the Clinton Administration.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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