Who Will Follow Babbitt?

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With Randy Babbitt's recent departure from the FAA's top job after a drunk-driving arrest, the job is being filled by his former deputy, Michael Huerta, but speculation has already begun about who will be the next administrator. In an analysis by Politico on Tuesday, five names are floated, including several who are well-known in aviation circles -- NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman, former ALPA leader Duane Woerth, and former U.S. Rep. James Oberstar.

Hersman is known for her strong record of safety advocacy and her "career aspirations," says Politico. Woerth reportedly was a contender for the job back in 2009, when Babbitt was hired, and has strong ties with the airlines and the unions. He is currently the U.S. representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization. Oberstar spent 36 years in the House, where he was a longtime member of the Transportation Committee and served as chairman for several years. Politico also names as possible successors Robert Herbert, a staffer for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who served as director of aviation in Nevada's Army National Guard, and Huerta, who could be a popular choice among FAA staffers. Huerta's work on NextGen "showcases his embrace of the wonky details," says Politico. Nothing is likely to happen until after the presidential election in 2012, Politico predicts, so chances are Huerta will be in charge for at least another year or so.

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