Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bright lights from 49ers' Levi's Stadium causing problems for airline pilots: Report

Pilots preparing to land at San Jose Mineta International Airport usually get a birds-eye view of the San Francisco 49ers games in action at Levi's Stadium when they head for the runway, but some of them are now complaining that the bright lights of that venue are making it difficult to land.

The stadium, which opened  in August 2014 and already had problems with its grass, may now have to look towards the skies to solve another flaw in its design.

The stadium and the airport are less than five miles apart.

At least six commercial pilots have filed complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration after being blinded by bright light coming from the Santa Clara stadium, claiming it is a safety hazard, according to NBC Bay Area

"At first I couldn’t really tell where it was coming from," pilot Christina Kurowicki said. 

Kurowicki and her co-captain wrote complaints about the bright lights as soon as they landed.

"I was kind of mad," Kurowicki said. 

Kurowicki and her captain each filed a report with the FAA. She said the lights were so bright she ended up with a headache and her captain had to get medical treatment.

"We just knew that we were getting beams of light in our eye," she said. 

"Created a blind spot in my field of vision – had to rely on instruments until about 100 feet [above ground level] because of the distraction,” Kurowicki wrote in the compliant.

Here's game time proof of how close the planes are:

Last year, the FAA issued a safety-alert bulletin for pilots about the lights.

FAA public affairs manager Ian Gregor wrote in a statement that most of the reports it reviewed were when the stadium's scoreboard was being calibrated, making it brighter than usual. 

"The FAA relayed these concerns to the stadium operator, which agreed to provide the FAA with advance notice of all scoreboard testing and not to test or calibrate it at night during scheduled airfield hours," Gregor wrote.

Jay Rollins, a former American Airlines pilot and now an aviation safety consultant, said a lone warning is gambling with safety and hopes the 49ers will take action.

"They really have to choose between whether the lights in the stadium and the excitement that goes on there is more important than the safety of these arrivals," said Rollins.

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