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Air boss held on drink drive charge

The head of America's air safety agency has been suspended after being arrested for drunken driving.

Randy Babbitt, 65, was held after police spotted him driving on the wrong side of the road on Saturday night in a suburb of Washington.

Babbitt apparently delayed revealing the arrest. The White House said President Barack Obama learned of the arrest on Monday.

Officials are in "discussions with legal counsel about Administrator (Randy) Babbitt's employment status," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

Mr LaHood has aggressively campaigned against drunken driving, and is working with police agencies and safety advocates on an annual Christmas crackdown on drinking and driving later this month. Safety campaigners credit him with doing more to raise the visibility of human factors in road safety - including drunken driving, drivers distracted by cell phone use, and parents who fail to buckle in their children - than any previous transportation secretary.

Mr Babbitt was a former airline captain and internationally recognised expert in aviation and labour relations when Mr Obama picked him in 2009 to head the FAA, which has nearly 40,000 employees. 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 1990s, he championed the "one level of safety" initiative implemented in 1995 to improve safety standards across the airline industry.

Mr Babbitt took over at the FAA when the agency was still reeling from the exposure of widespread safety gaps in the regional airline industry. The problems were revealed by a National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the February 2009 crash of a regional airliner near Buffalo, New York, that killed 50 people.

As FAA's top official, he has the final say in disciplinary proceedings involving controllers who break the agency's drug and alcohol regulations.


From Belfast Telegraph