The often-maligned FAA has now been given another black eye as the big boss, Randy Babbit, was arrested for DUI in Fairfax, Virginia. As an aviation icon who was a pilot at Eastern Airlines before he became the president of the pilot’s union, ALPA, and then went on to what is probably the most important aviation job in the world, FAA Administrator. A check ride evaluation form that evaluates a pilot’s competence and determines if he/she is competent has a final square that supersedes all of the other aspects of the check ride. That square is designated as JUDGEMENT, and it trumps all else.Randy Babbit failed dismally in the judgment evaluation and it reflects poorly on all pilots everywhere.
Randy Babbit entered aviation in the glory days of the commercial airlines. Unfortunately, the concern for showing up for that 0600 departure with a little residual alcohol left over from the previous evening was not too uncommon. The airline pilot profile was a fun-loving, social animal who enjoyed the bright lights. As most people are aware, that perspective has been significantly revamped and all but a few of today’s airline pilots are very responsible regarding time between “the bottle-and-the-throttle.” Captain Babbit, as he was frequently referred to, apparently had a relapse back to the good times at the bar during the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
There is also a strong possibility that he had a “drinking problem” that finally reared up its ugly head. There is also a strong likelihood that the incredible pressure of such a high profile and demanding job resulted in a need to release a little pressure by diving to the bottom of the whiskey bottle. Regardless of the reason, which is for sure imbedded in a complexity of causal factors, it is a sad chapter in the wonderful history of aviation. This incident will also result in further delay of the much-needed and delayed revision of the pilot flight and duty time regulations that allow tired pilots to jeopardize airline safety.