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Randy Babbitt Resigns

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt resigned on Tuesday following what can only be described as a fall from grace. He was arrested Saturday night in Fairfax City, Virginia on charges of drunken driving. He was only halfway through his five-year term as FAA Administrator.




FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt resigned on Tuesday following what can only be described as a fall from grace. He was arrested Saturday night in Fairfax City, Virginia on charges of drunken driving. He was only halfway through his five-year term as FAA Administrator.
Randy babbitt released the following statement on Tuesday:

“Today I submitted my resignation to Secretary Ray LaHood and it has been accepted. Serving as FAA Administrator has been an absolute honor and the highlight of my professional career. 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. They run the finest and safest aviation system in the world and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work alongside them. I am confident in their ability to successfully carry out all of the critical safety initiatives underway and the improvements that the FAA has planned. I also want to thank Secretary LaHood for his leadership and dedication to the safety of the traveling public.”

As the head of any organization charged with maintaining public safety, it is incumbent upon the individuals to display the highest level integrity and behave in a manner that is beyond reproach. There really is no line between your public life and private persona.
Looking back just a few day ago, one can see exactly how your private life affects your public life or in this case aspirations for public life. Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain was forced to suspend his political campaign following a series of accusations of sexual harassment and an extra-marital affair. He lost the trust of the people that he was hoping to govern one day, and the poll numbers told the story as the tales emerged.
Can you see the relationship between public and private lives? It is hard to shake off doubts in the minds of the people that you administer if there is a mismatch between what you say and what you do.
As safety professionals, we can all learn a few lessons from Randy’s pitfall:

  1. We must lead by example,
  2. There is no FREE PASS for our indiscretions, and
  3. Shed the notion of entitlement.

Alcohol seems to be the undoing of many in a position of power. But in the words of P.J. O’Rourke – political satirist, journalist and writer – “No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.”
Maybe Randy was just stupid to drive while under the influence of alcohol, because he surely is not ignorant. During his long career, he flew as an airline pilot for 25 years, and served as Executive Administrator and President of Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) for many years.
In a twist of the events, one and a half days following the charge, Randy co-piloted a government jet to North Carolina as part of a proficiency flight. The flight was planned before Randy’s Saturday-night arrest, and no rules appear to have been violated by taking the flight.
The “bottle to throttle” rule requires eight hours to pass between alcohol consumption and flying.


5 Responses

12.08.11

Wayne,
In your last paragraph you state “The “bottle to throttle” rule requires eight hours to pass between alcohol consumption and flying”.
While this IS true, FAA employees are held to a higher standard. You should be aware of the Human Resources Policy Manual (HRPM) Human Resources Operating Instructions (HROI). You stated:
“In a twist of the events, one and a half days following the charge, Randy co-piloted a government jet to North Carolina as part of a proficiency flight. The flight was planned before Randy’s Saturday-night arrest, and no rules appear to have been violated by taking the flight.”
The rule that was broken is that Mr. Babbitt failed to report the arrest. The HROI states:
“An employee who has a single off-duty incident, such as an arrest for an alcohol-related driving infraction, shall notify his/her manager before the start of his/her next regularly scheduled work shift, but in any event no later than 48 hours after the arrest. The employee must also contact the RFS within 48 hours.”
Mr. Babbitt failed to notify ANYONE about his arrest. Secretary La Hood found out only after the police blotter was released and the media picked up on it. As the head of the FAA your actions should be beyond reproach. Mr. Babbitt not only violated driving laws pertaining to driving under the influence, he then continued to violate federal policy that he himself implemented, by failing to disclose the arrest to his superior in a timely manner. He then continued to perform his duties in a testing designated position (TDP) safety related position by piloting a government jet after the event.
As I see it, Mr, Babbitt had no choice but to resign his position. In addition I find it appalling that he had the gall to, as one last act of transgression against the American public, use government funds and equipment to ensure his flight review was current.

12.08.11

Hi Jamie,
Thanks for your comments. I do take your point and stand corrected. I carefully coined my sentence with the words “no rules appear to have been violated” since I am not so savvy about all the FAA rules. The intent of the post was to highlight Randy’s stupidity and the lessons to be learnt.

12.08.11

It seems like “lessons learned” are so often blatantly ignored that most “stupid” people are unable to learn.

12.08.11

Hi Wayne
First, I really enjoy your blog, love coming here, and love learning about aviation.
Your points about Babbitt are well conceived and accurate, especially the requirement to lead by example. As FAA head there is implicit expectation one’s behavior promotes safety and responsibility. What was this person thinking driving an automobile after drinking? Odds are he has piloted aircraft in the same condition. I worry about Babbitt’s decision skills. As you clearly write he lost the confidence of those he was appointed to lead. It would have been a fight to remain in the position.

12.08.11

Thanks for your comments Ricky. The important lesson here is to learn from his mistake, as it applies to any field of work.

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About Wayne Farley

I am Wayne, a career air traffic controller. Engage me while I share my thoughts, experience, and news from around the aviation world. A post titled “13 Characteristics of an Air Traffic Controller” written in 2010 went viral and established me as the unofficial ambassador of ATC.

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