Picture this: it is third and 7 from the 45 yard-line with 56 seconds left on the clock. The 49ers break the huddle, march up to the line of scrimmage with Colin Kaepernick getting under center. The crowd is buzzing the defense is shifting, and Kaepernick wants to change the play. He backs off the line of scrimmage to the shot-gun and starts to call the audible. Suddenly there is a massive roar that cuts through Kap's voice. The receivers look confused and line-up in the wrong spot. Kap tries to get them fixed, but the roar continues and he's forced to call a time-out with the play clock near zero.
Crowd noise can be a heck of a thing, just ask anyone who has ever been to a game in Seattle, but this is different. This roar was not the crowd getting amped up or even screaming roller-coaster aficionados from Great America next door. This was a Boeing 737 taking off from San Jose.
If you have not been to Santa Clara to check out the new stadium, the most apparent thing you see and hear (besides how awesome it is) is that the stadium is very close to San Jose Airport. In fact, it is within 3 miles of the airport. Even more off-putting is that the stadium sits directly beneath the take-off and landing lanes of two runways. That means a constant stream of low flying jets passing right overhead.
While out at camp yesterday my concentration was constantly broken by loud jet noises overhead. It did not seem to have any affect on the players and I am sure, after two weeks of camp, they are used to it. But, training camp is not a real live game with added crowd noise. So how will these planes impact what takes place on the field? Truth is they won't...maybe.
A NBC report confirmed the FAA will issue TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions) for the airspace over the stadium during home games and during the Super Bowl in 2015. There is, however, some question as to how well they have planned for changes in weather that force planes to land heading south. From the same NBC report, it seems none of these factors were fully considered until after construction began.
I am really unsure what to make of it at this point. Candlestick is one of the crown jewels of difficult environmental factors, so maybe it's fitting that the new Santa Clara site will have an obnoxious quirk of its own. The again maybe it will work to the 49ers advantage. How sweet would it be if Joe 49ersfan, who happens to be an air traffic controller at SJC, send a a big 'ole jet airliner right over the stadium while Russell Wilson tries to call a play on 3 and 9 from his own 5 yard-line. Eat your heart out 12th man.
The likelihood of a low flying jet actually affecting play during a game is small. The biggest impact will probably be felt by travelers going in and out of SJC, The other possibility is that 49ers fans get to relive that ridiculous scene from Invictus (one that never happened the way the movie portrayed it) where a plane flies low over Ellis Park right before kick-off of the 1995 Rugby World Cup.