Former pilots president nominated to head Federal Aviation Administration

Capt. Randy Babbitt, who spent 25 years in the cockpit beginning with Eastern Airlines and served two terms as president of the Air Line Pilots (ALPA), was nominated last week by President Obama to take over the controls of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Current ALPA President Capt. John Prater says he is confident that as FAA administrator, Babbitt will develop a flight plan to

guide the FAA into the future….Capt. Babbitt’s decisive leadership will position the FAA to take aggressive action to modernize our country’s antiquated airspace in the face of air traffic demand that is sure to escalate as the economy improves.

The White House announcement of his appointment said Babbitt is a

nationally recognized leader in the field of aviation safety and policy, and labor relations with almost 40 years of experience in the industry.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed him to the National Commission to Ensure a Strong Competitive Airline Industry. He has served as a CEO and chairman of a worldwide aviation consulting firm and is currently part of an independent review team examining and making recommendations to improve the FAA’s aviation safety system.

National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Patrick Forrey says Babbitt—after years of mismanagement of the FAA under the Bush administration—will face “an array of big challenges.”

The most critically urgent task facing Mr. Babbitt in terms of safety and labor relations is returning to the bargaining table with NATCA to end nearly 1,000 days of imposed terms and conditions of employment and reach a collective bargaining agreement…[he] has the opportunity to do great things with our National Airspace System and restore the credibility of an agency in need of a priority readjustment.

Urging a quick Senate confirmation, Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD), says:

The FAA is at a critical moment in its history. Budget and management problems have prevented the agency from expanding and modernizing the system. Safety reforms are long overdue. And the agency’s broken collective bargaining system needs to be reformed. Randy Babbitt will provide the leadership the FAA needs to work through these challenges, better protect workers, and serve the flying public.