Twenty years ago, high hopes were held by the airport authority that some day two-engine Boeing 737-sized jets could land at another airport somewhere in Blaine County, but not in its present location next to McKercher Park and running 8,500 feet south from five short blocks of the downtown area—just too close. The reasons were budget, then safety, then budget, more budget and now safety again.
The FAA may well be right that jets need the space clearance in case of a missed approach, even if they can climb at 40 degrees. I have never seen a missed approach.
What the FAA isn't telling you is that after 50 years (two generations) of entrenched bureaucracy, they have conveniently forgotten that the very first ground-controlled approach radar systems were tested and found better (they could detect two-foot glide path pilot error) in rain, fog and "scud cloud approaches" and that the USAF SAC preferred them over visual landings 100 percent. Furthermore, after the Berlin Airlift (a landing every minute), not one plane was lost because the pilot could not find the end of the runway at the Berlin Templehof Airport. They flew right over apartment houses with planeloads of food and coal for several months.
In other words, is this airport decision now cast in ignorance concrete or does the FAA need to find some new brass (ex-military pilots that are far better than "captain of the ship")? The public has been fed baloney for 50 years about the safety concerns of a three-man FAA board or a three-man GCA radar controllers. This could get a plane in trouble over the end of the runway.
The question isn't safety, it's about how many bigger jets can land on the head of an airport board that is trying as best it can to accommodate everyone. To be done with this argument (given its constraints) is hopeless. The feds hold these cards, it's not reason or logic, it's dogmatic assertion. There was a better solution 50 years ago. Solution: If the feds want a bigger airport, let them build it. The city need not challenge the Friedman will; smaller jets can still land and general aviation can, too.