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Babbitt resigns as FAA chief after weekend arrest

By Mike M. Ahlers, CNN
updated 6:08 PM EST, Tue December 6, 2011
In a statement, Randy Babbitt said he didn't want to
In a statement, Randy Babbitt said he didn't want to "cast a shadow" on the work of colleagues at the FAA.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: FAA head Randy Babbitt resigns after a weekend charge of drunk driving
  • NEW: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood accepts Babbitt's resignation
  • Police allegedly saw Babbitt driving on the wrong side of the road

Washington (CNN) -- Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt resigned Tuesday, three days after he was arrested on a drunk driving charge near his suburban Washington home.

In a brief statement released to the media, Babbitt said he had submitted his resignation to his boss, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and that LaHood had accepted it.

Babbitt, 65, a former airline pilot and president of a major pilots' union, said serving as FAA administrator had been "the highlight of my professional career," adding, "But I am unwilling to let anything cast a shadow on the outstanding work done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by my colleagues at the FAA."

His statement made no mention of his arrest, although it was clearly the event that precipitated his action.

Earlier in the day, Secretary LaHood told reporters he was "very disappointed" that he had learned about Babbitt's Saturday night arrest only after the Fairfax City, Virginia, police department issued a news release about the incident.

In a statement released just minutes after Babbitt announced his resignation, LaHood called Babbitt a "dedicated public servant and outstanding leader."

"I'm proud to say that we have the safest aviation system in the world, and thanks to Randy's stewardship, it became safer and stronger," LaHood said. "He worked tirelessly to improve relations with the labor community and bolstered employee engagement among his 49,000 colleagues at the FAA."

Fairfax City police arrested Babbitt late Saturday night after they allegedly saw Babbitt driving on the wrong side of the road. The police put out a news release on Monday morning detailing the incident. Babbitt was alone in the car, and was cooperative, police said. He was released on personal recognizance, meaning no bail was required.

The police department said Babbitt failed a sobriety test, but they did not release the results of any blood-alcohol test.

On Monday, DOT officials appeared to be caught off-guard when the police department, in accordance with its policies, issued a news release saying Babbitt had been arrested. DOT officials Monday afternoon issued a statement saying that Babbitt had asked for a leave of absence, and it had been granted.

A court date for Babbitt has been set for February 2 in Virginia.

Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta is serving as acting administrator.

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