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John Thune

Plan to spin off air traffic control generates turbulence

The air traffic control system that choreographs the roughly 7,000 aircraft in U.S. skies at any given moment is the most complex, but also one of the safest, in the world — and rarely a thought in the minds of the millions of travelers who rely on it.

A Republican House committee chairman is launching a push this week to take away control of that system from the government and hand it to a nonprofit corporation directed by the airlines, airports, labor unions, business aircraft operators and private pilots, among others. The idea is already generating turbulence as lawmakers and lobbyists line up for and against it.

House Transportation committee chairman Bud Shuster,...