Mistakes will be made

Human beings have a propensity for making decisions that lead to less than desirable outcomes. Said another way, we’re pretty dumb sometimes. That’s not exactly shocking news, I know. But then something comes down the news wires about one of us doing something stupid, or more often, allegedly doing something stupid, and we get ourselves all lathered up about the idiocy of whatever the flavor of the day is in the latest news cycle

On Monday of this week the news broke that FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt was arrested on a DWI charge in Fairfax, Virginia, over the weekend. By evening we knew that Babbitt had requested, and was granted, a leave of absence. At the same time it was learned that legal counsel were advising the Department of Transportation regarding Babbitt’s employment status.

Everything was going along as expected. A scandal broke, the media leapt on it in an effort to inform the public, and it wasn’t long before cooler heads were ushered from the room so high-ranking government officials could flirt with the possibility of a full-blown panic.

I may be a voice in the wilderness on this point, but perhaps it would be worth allowing the judicial system to run its course. I realize the preference is to rush to the publicity-driven conviction of a man who we supposedly guaranteed an assumption of innocence until the facts prove otherwise. But heck, what’s the fun in that? We’re a vigilante culture of individuals who let our television stars do our thinking for us. So when a talking head suggests an arrest has been made, we zip our intellectual processes directly to the end game and start talking about sentencing guidelines and recidivism rates

As a society we don’t have the patience to consider the facts, weigh the evidence, or discuss the possibility that there’s another narrative that we hadn’t considered yet. I’d say it’s the last thing we’re interested in, but that’s not true. The last thing we’re interested in is allowing our own system of justice to run its course.

Consider this, if you will. Randy Babbitt was, until only a few days ago, considered to be one of the good guys. His professional resume is stellar. He’s a pilot, for goodness sake. And as obvious as it might seem that a pilot should probably be at the helm of the FAA, the presence of one holding down the fort from the boss’s office is actually somewhat unusual. Before his stint as the administrator, Babbitt was a CFI, and a line pilot for Eastern Airlines. He also did a turn as the CEO for the Airline Pilots Association, which is the union that represents a fair number of professional flyboys and girls in this nation.

I mention all this because I think that it might be good if we all take a step back and remember Babbitt is a human being, not all that different from the rest of us, really. He’s prone to making mistakes, errors, taking miscues, and periodically falling on his butt in public. That may be what just happened over the weekend. Then again, it might not be. I don’t know. But then neither do you. And that’s the point.

I once saw an SUV barrel through a red light, run up a lawn, and hit a stone wall that took real diligence to get to. The driver might have been charged with DWI, I suppose. But he wasn’t. He was taken to the hospital for treatment, instead. It turned out the driver was a diabetic who was suffering from the effects of his condition as it got wildly out of balance, not from excessive elbow bending at the bar.

Was he driving dangerously and putting others at risk? Yeah! Was he doing it because he was irresponsible and didn’t care about the welfare of others? Nope, not by a long shot.

Like you, I have no idea what the circumstances were that led to Babbitt being on the wrong side of the road and in a state that led the authorities to believe he was intoxicated. But then I don’t have to know the ins and outs of that situation. We are fortunate enough to have a judicial system in place to deal with just this sort of situation. And Babbitt’s own history suggests that he’s a man of consequence who just might have it in him to stand up and offer a sincere mea culpa if he was, in fact, blotto on Saturday night.

I say we give Babbitt, and the justice system, a change to work this out on their own. I’m weird like that, I know.

Life can be hard. So I’ve made a conscious choice not to make it harder when someone does something stupid, or even when it appears they may have done something less than noble that could be potentially embarrassing — even career ending.

Like you, I’ve made mistakes over the course of my life. Some became public knowledge, and some didn’t. Some were regrettable, while others were actually kind of funny. But they were my mistakes, and I got the chance to deal with them without the pressure of the public eye being on me or the irritation of the press second guessing and pre-supposing what really happened, what might have happened, and what the consequences might be if the worst was true.

Let’s all take a step back and accept that mistakes will be made in life. By me, by you, and by everyone you have ever known in your life. We don’t have to pile on in a mad rush to make things as bad as they can be as quickly as possible. I’m willing to wait, suspend judgement, and let the process we have in place take its course.

In the mean time, I’m hoping for the best. We had a good administrator there for a while. I’m hoping we get to keep him – flaws and all.

Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He is also a founding partner and regular contributor to FlightMonkeys.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.



  1. Bart says

    He’s going to be hung out to dry as you or I would if the FAA finds out we’d made the same “mistake”. The guy who runs it should be expected to abide by the same rules. Besides, getting drunk isn’t a mistake, it’s a choice, unless he’s done it so often and for so long that he’s become addicted, which is unlikely, given his background. Having said that I don’t disagree with Jamie, but why should Babbit get special consideration he or I wouldn’t get from the agency he heads?

  2. John Slemp says

    Hello Jamie!
    As I attended my local EAA Chapter Board meeting last night this came up.  I too expressed sentiments similar to yours, especially in light of having met Mr. Babbit earlier this year.  He does seem like a stand-up guy, and if he’s guilty, I’m sure will pay the price.  

    But let’s not judge the worth of the man, and his life accomplishments, on one lapse of judgement.  If that’s the standard for humanity, then we might all be in trouble…

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