DWI Charge Forces FAA Resignation; 3407 Families React

1:55 PM, Dec 7, 2011   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (AP & WGRZ) -- Former Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Randy Babbitt resigned from his position Tuesday evening following his weekend arrest on drunk driving charges.

Babbitt has become familiar to many people in Western New York in the years since the crash of Flight 3407.

According to police, Babbitt 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, Va.

Babbitt was the only occupant in the vehicle. Police said he cooperated and was released on his own recognizance.

Babbitt released a statement Tuesday evening confirming his resignation:

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.

Jennifer West, whose husband Ernie was killed when Flight 3407 crashed, said she was angered that a transportation official would be so reckless.

"He is (part of) the Department of Transportation," West said, adding the seriousness of a DWI charge. "You could kill people, so if he can't follow his own laws, how is he supposed to make airlines follow procedures and policies?"

Babbitt's relationship with 3407 family members has been strained due to repeated delays in instituting rules recommended by the family members and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Although West wasn't in attendance, she recalled a face-to-face meeting between Babbitt and some of the 3407 family members in the months following the crash.

"I can't speak for anyone else," West said. "But the general response was that they felt he was not really listening and he wasn't understanding."

West said she hopes having new leadership at the top of the FAA could mean increased safety measures will be instituted more quickly, especially pending rules on pilot fatigue.

"Maybe a breath of fresh air will help," West said. "Maybe it will bring someone in who can actually get things done."

But Kevin Kuwik, who lost his girlfriend in the crash, did meet personally with Babbitt and felt he was receptive to their concerns. He felt Babbitt, as a former airline pilot, understood the need for proper rest of flight crews. He also points out that airline pressure on the White House regarding regulations has in part been responsible for the delays. Kuwik is confident that eventually the new regulations will go into place. He says the 3407 Family group hopes to set up a meeting in January with the interim administrator Michael Huerta who was the FAA's deputy administrator.     



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