Cross-National Differences in Aviation Safety Records

Barnett, Arnold
August 2010
Transportation Science;Aug2010, Vol. 44 Issue 3, p322
Academic Journal
Data about the mortality risk of scheduled passenger air travel over 2000-2007 around the world is examined in this paper. Worldwide, the average passenger death risk per scheduled flight over 2000-2007 was about one in 3.0 million. However, much as the center of mass of a doughnut is the center of the hole-where there is no mass-the worldwide average represents the actual risk level in few if any countries. The data support a three-population risk model across nations, in which the differences in death risk are not statistically significant within groups but are highly significant across groups. The safest nations are the traditional first-world countries (e.g., Canada, Japan), with a death risk per flight of about 1 in 14 million. Next safest are those developing-world nations that have either have recently attained first-world status (e.g., Singapore, South Korea) or are classified by experts as newly industrialized (e.g., Brazil, China) Their aggregrate death risk per flight was about 1 in 2 million. The least safe nations statistically are remaining developing-world countries, with a death risk per flight of about 1 in 800,000. In terms of relative risk, divergences within the developing world are modest compared to the overall difference between the first and developing worlds. The observed risk pattern might reflect a confluence of economic and cultural factors.


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