UPDATE: Babbitt resigns at 5:00pm EST
Excerpt from his statement
"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."
Assorted notes on the latest round of breaking news on the aviation beat. Where to start?
Okay, Randy Babbitt. What is there really to say besides bemoan the tragedy that his arrest in Virginia on Saturday for driving under the influence of alcohol will likely cost the FAA administrator his job.
I have a few correspondents who are delighted schadenfreude-style that the nation's most highly-visible former airline pilot (okay, second to you-know-who) is now on administrative leave which can only be to provide time to collect facts and figure out what statement will accompany his resignation.
On the other hand, I have correspondents who are as gob-smacked by the news as I was when it hit the wires on Monday. Granted, running the FAA with all that's going on these days is one ongoing reason to drink. But with just news accounts to go on, my initial reaction is that the administrator has made a terrible error in judgment. Had the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board not been in a tizzy for the entire length of Mr. Babbitt's time at the FAA over the very subject of judgment, there might be forgiveness for this lapse.
With the crashes of Colgan Air flight 3407 in 2010, Comair flight 5191 in 2006, overflying pilots and sleeping air traffic controllers all seeming to demonstrate a decline in standards of professionalism, there is just too much riding on the maintenance of impeccable behavior by the top dog at the FAA. And in that, he has certainly failed.
Sad. That was how I felt about this yesterday and that's how it feels today.
Incensed is how I was feeling on Sunday when I heard the report of the little old lady en route to Florida who claimed security agents at the JFK airport checkpoint strip searched her before allowing her on jetBlue flight. Incensed because there's nothing about this story that rings true. I am baffled by standards of professionalism in journalism in which the comments of one side in a dispute are reported without evidence or logic to support the validity of the claim.
Lenore Zimmerman, 84, requested a private pat-down screening at the airport and two female agents accompanied her into a room to conduct it, I am told by Greg Soule of the Transportation Security Administration. (You can read the TSA's version of the story here.)
The screening apparently involved the removal of Ms. Zimmerman's back brace or money belt. In an effort to understand the gap between two versions of the story, my mind makes the leap that from the removal of that device, Ms. Zimmerman has come to believe that her privacy was invaded. Perhaps it may even have seemed, upon reflection during a 2-hour flight that the agents looked in her pants and underpants during the process because that is what she told reporters. She wound up her story with a promise to sue.
But the information from the TSA doesn't support the passenger's claim about the length of the screening or that she was asked to remove her clothing during the search. She did not complain to anyone at the time, or appear disturbed upon exiting the screening room.
"Nothing unusual was depicted on the CCTV (closed circuit TV) as the passenger and two female officers entered and exited the room," the TSA blog reports. "The wheelchair attendant assisted the passenger in departing the checkpoint area for the gate."
Since Sunday the story has gone viral. And is that really a surprise? The news - veracity notwithstanding - has fed the appetites of travelers who cannot get enough of TSA bashing.
analysis of American Airline's bankruptcy filing by William Swelbar (some great name eh?) of MIT who writes on his Swelblog that the legacy carrier could emerge from its woes intact and unmerged. A little optimism for the beginning of the week, well that's a good thing.