WASHINGTON — FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt was placed on a leave of absence today and U.S. officials said his employment is under review following his arrest for drunken driving in suburban Northern Virginia.

Babbitt, 65, was charged with driving while intoxicated after a patrol officer spotted him driving on the wrong side of the street and pulled him over about 10:30 p.m. Saturday in Fairfax City, Va., police in the Washington, D.C., suburb.

Babbitt, who lives in nearby Reston, Va., was the only occupant in the vehicle, the statement said. Police said he cooperated and was released on his own recognizance.

The Federal Aviation Administration is part of the Department of Transportation. A statement released today by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s office said department officials didn’t learn of Babbitt’s arrest until this afternoon.

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. DOT officials are in discussions with legal counsel about Administrator Babbitt’s employment status.”

Babbitt was a former airline captain and internationally recognized expert in aviation and labor relations when President Barack Obama tapped him in 2009 to head the FAA. He was a pilot for the now-defunct Eastern Airlines for 25 years, and had served as president of the Air Line Pilots Association. As head of ALPA in the late 1990s, he championed the “one level of safety” initiative implemented in 1995 to improve safety standards across the airline industry.

At FAA, Babbitt has struggled to implement a wide range of safety initiatives, often over the opposition of industry officials who say the measures would cost too much money.

 

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