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U.S. aviation chief on leave after drunk driving arrest

(Xinhua)

16:50, December 06, 2011

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- The Administrator of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Randy Babbitt was placed on a leave of absence Monday following his drunk driving arrest.

"Administrator Babbitt has requested, effective immediately, to take a leave of absence from the FAA," the Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's office said in a statement. "That request has been granted and Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta will serve as acting administrator."

The FAA is part of the Department of Transportation. It has authority to regulate and oversee all aspects of civil aviation in the U.S.

"DOT officials are in discussions with legal counsel about Administrator Babbitt's employment status," the statement added.

Babbitt was arrested Saturday night in Fairfax, Virginia, and charged with driving while intoxicated after a police officer spotted him driving on the wrong side of the road, according to a police statement. He was the only occupant in the vehicle and no accident occurred.

Babbitt, 65, was tapped by President Barack Obama to take on the job in 2009. He had been an pilot flying for the now-defunct Eastern Airlines for 25 years.

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