BIG DATA AND REDUCING AIRLINE ACCIDENTS ON THE GROUND. Susan Carey had an article in the Wall Street Journal (September 30) about how United Airlines has been using interns from college criminal justice programs to collect and load massive amounts of data relating to accidents. There have been decreases on the order of 20% to 30% in a couple years in injuries to employees and in incidents of aircraft damage on the ground.

As an example of success, the data collection showed that the biggest cause of aircraft damage came when motorized jet bridges were connected to arriving plans. United has now painted a strip at the base of the jet-bridge door and a dot on each plane’s door. Jet-bridge operators now aim the strip at the dot. Collisions between jet bridges and planes have dropped dramatically.

This kind of thinking is what operations research was doing in the sixties when I encountered it in graduate school, but I was pleased to see that the scale of data input can still lead to substantial improvements.

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