An aircraft takes off from New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.
Photograph by Trevor Collens — AFP/Getty Images
By Chris Matthews
June 15, 2015

A powerful Pennsylvania lawmaker is set to propose changes to America’s air traffic control system that would turn it into “a federally chartered, independent, nonprofit corporation,” according to a report Monday on Bloomberg News.

The move, if approved, would be “the most far-reaching change since the current structure was created in the 1950s,” Bloomberg said.

It’s not often that legislation is thought to have a chance of becoming law in today’s divided Washington, but House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, who is author of the proposed legislation, thinks that the current political climate would support his plan, according to Bloomberg.

That’s because FAA funding has been imperiled by the sort of budgetary feuding that has led to two government shutdowns since 2011, and led to significant delays at airports back in 2013. Congress was criticized two years ago for quickly coming to a compromise to end furloughs at the FAA while ignoring other programs such as Medicaid and Head Start, because Congresspeople are directly affected by airport wait times.

Congress’ unique interest in the smooth functioning of the nation’s airports is perhaps one reason Shuster is confident his bill will make it through a fractious legislature. It also may help that other countries, from Canada to Germany, have initiated such reforms with some success. If the bill gains steam, companies from Harris Corp. (HRS) to Lockheed Martin Corp.(LMT) and Raytheon Co.(RTN) will likely oppose it, according to Bloomberg. These firms are involved in a multi-billion dollar upgrade of the nation’s air traffic controller system, and don’t want to see reforms that would complicate the process.

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