No. 2 official takes over after FAA chief resigns

By JOAN LOWY | December 7, 2011 | 2:05 AM EST

This handout provided by Fairfax County, Va. Sheriff's Office shows Randy Babbitt. Babbitt following his arrest for drunken driving in suburban Northern Virginia over the weekend. Babbitt says he will resign as head of the Federal Aviation Administration following his arrest over the weekend on charges of drunken driving. Babbitt said in a statement Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011, that he didn't want to allow anything to "cast a shadow" on the work done by his colleagues at the FAA. (AP Photo/Fairfax County, Va. Sheriff's Office)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The resignation of the nation's top aviation official places the Federal Aviation Administration under the leadership of its well-regarded deputy administrator.

Michael Huerta is expected to serve as the FAA's acting administrator through next year if the White House wants to avoid a possible nomination fight before the presidential election.

Huerta was promoted Tuesday after FAA administrator Randy Babbitt resigned following his arrest on charges of drunken driving. Babbitt had been in the post since 2009.

Huerta has been leading the FAA's troubled NextGen effort to transition from an air traffic control system based on World War II-era radar technology to one based on satellite technology. He was also managing director of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and held several senior transportation posts under President Bill Clinton.