April 16, 2010 (by MSgt. Pam Anderson) - The Federal Aviation Administration administrator was given the opportunity to see other side of the safety coin when he flew with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, April 15.
Randy Babbitt, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, pauses for a photograph before his familiarization flight with the demonstration team. Mr. Babbitt is responsible for more than 30,000 aircraft that occupy US airspace. [USAF photo by MSgt. Pam Anderson]
Randy Babbitt, who is responsible for the safety of more than 30,000 aircraft and has accumulated more than 14,000 flying hours, got his first ride in the cockpit of a fighter jet.
"There are not enough words to describe it," he said. "I have a new appreciation for the fighter aircraft's capabilities and the people who work with them."
The U.S. military makes up a large percentage of the daily flights Mr. Babbitt monitors. His familiarization flight with the demonstration team gave him a more in-depth look at the safety preparations that go into a Thunderbird performance and the amount of interaction that is occurs between the U.S. Air Force and the FAA.
"Everything we do from the beginning to the end of a flight must be coordinated with the local authorities, so it's important for (Mr. Babbitt) to see how we interact with the civil and commercial air industry," said Lt. Col. Derek Routt, USAFADS operations officer and Thunderbirds No. 7, who flew Mr. Babbit in the red, white and blue F-16D Fighting Falcon.
During his flight, Mr. Babbitt experienced every maneuver in a Thunderbird air show performance. He also earned the coveted 9-G pin after experiencing 9G's.
"To show him our Air Force and to share our story with someone at his level was amazing," Colonel Routt said. "We have a common bond when it comes to commitment to safety, and I am honored that I was able to share this experience with Mr. Babbitt."
In addition to safety, the FAA and the Thunderbirds also share the same goal of keeping the spirit of aviation alive.
"The Thunderbirds inspire so many young men and women," Mr. Babbitt said. "Through them, we hope to motivate the next generation of aviators."