Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers and host of Super Bowl 50, may be a serious airport safety hazard. According to NBC Bay Area, pilots have been filling complaints to the Federal Aviation Administration because the stadium's lights are blindingly bright at night, making it difficult to land at nearby San Jose Mineta International Airport.
NBC's investigation revealed at least six instances of pilots complaining about the lights. The problem prompted NASA to get involved and issue two separate safety alert bulletins to the FAA, the San Jose airport and the Santa Clara Stadium Authority.
Accounts from the complaints are rather terrifying. One woman who was preparing to land called the lights "incapacitating." Another pilot warned that the lights could create "flicker vertigo." Another said that a sign on top of the stadium could be confused for a runway in bad weather.
At the very least, the lights make it very difficult to operate an airplane.
Bright light flooded the cockpit, impairing her night vision and making it difficult to see outside. The beams were so bright, Kurowicki said, that it felt like a laser event. She could only look outside for moments at a time.
"The captain I was flying with noticed where it was coming from and we heard other pilots in the area complaining about the lights coming from the stadium," Kurowicki said. "And at that point all we were really worried about was getting the aircraft on the ground safely."
The FAA has not asked the 49ers to dim the lights. In a statement, the administration said that it brought the issue to the stadium operator, who agreed to provide advance warning whenever the lights were being tested, calibrated or otherwise turned up extra bright at night. The 49ers released a statement pledging their cooperation:
"We have a great appreciation for the FAA and have worked with them to establish protocols and guidelines in the event the boards need to be recalibrated. Our top priority is always to maintain the highest level of safety and security for all guests visiting Levi's Stadium as well as the general public."
Unfortunately for pilots flying on certain Sunday nights, that's no guarantee they'll have a safe landing.