A pilot, a labor relations consultant, and the former president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), ATP-rated Randy Babbitt is now officially President Barack Obama's choice to serve as FAA administrator. Babbitt's nomination must now pass the Senate before he can set to the present priorities of (and problems posed by) air traffic control modernization and funding authorization. The FAA has been operating since 2007 without official funding reauthorization, but under temporary funding extensions. Hot-topic issues yet to be resolved revolve mainly around funding plans and the possibility of user fees that go beyond current taxation methods and do not exclude general aviation operations. Babbitt will also walk right into the long-brewed enmity of FAA/air traffic controller relations. AOPA offered a statement, Friday, welcoming the announcement of Babbitt's nomination and looking forward to working with the new administrator, once confirmed. Babbitt's nomination is viewed as "labor friendly" by labor organizations but business-oriented groups also mention his management and consulting background. His appointment is supported by ALPA and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. The National Business Aviation Association also praised the nomination as did the Air Transport Association, whose president James May called Babbitt "a superb choice."
ALPA's current president, John Prater, called Babbitt, "a powerful leader who promises to direct the FAA with staunch determination and a deep understanding of the aviation industry." But everyone has baggage and there is lingering bitterness over Babbitt's role in the events that preceded the demise of Eastern Airlines. AVweb has received several e-mails showing concern over Babbitt's nomination. One reader alleges that Babbitt's actions during the Eastern Airlines strike "helped destroy an airline and many careers."