J. Randolph "Randy" Babbitt, a longtime pilot and aviation consultant, will be nominated by President Obama to be the new chief of the Federal Aviation Administration under the Department of Transportation, the White House said Friday.

Airport groups responded yesterday with support for Babbitt.

If confirmed by the Senate, Babbitt will be tasked with leading the agency through what is expected to be a fierce battle over FAA reauthorization and proposed increases to bond-related passenger ticket charges.

The FAA has been funded through stopgap measures for two years, as Senate disputes have hampered reauthorization bills. One controversial measure disliked by anti-tax members of the Senate, would increase the passenger facilities charge cap to $7 from $4.50.

Airports can use the revenues generated from PFCs to back bonds. They rely on PFCs and grants from the federal airport improvement program to finance much of their infrastructure projects.

Babbitt is currently an aviation partner at New York-based Oliver Wyman. He could not be reached for comment by press time.

He has worked as a pilot for Eastern Airlines, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Air Lines Pilots Association, and last year served on a DOT-commissioned team to evaluate FAA safety, according to the White House.

Aviation modernization, labor issues, and safety are widely expected to be three critical components of FAA reauthorization this year.

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