Arnold Barnett, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management and a researcher on aviation safety, calculated that the odds of dying on a scheduled flight in first world countries such as Canada and Japan are one in 14 million.
But he found that flying in emerging nations such as India and Brazil leads to a one in 2 million chance of death per flight. Lesser developed countries, such as many found in Africa and in Latin America, were found to have a crash rate of one in 800,000.
Overall, Barnett says the data suggests airplane safety around the world is improving. Still, these figures could be frightening to some.
Barnett argues this issues in developing countries might be brought on “individualism and deference to authority.” I recall reading something similar recently that said there were more crashes and issues in an Asian country (perhaps South Korea?) because subordinates (anyone on the plane lower than the pilot) felt they could not challenge the pilot’s authority and therefore would not bring up possible problems if they saw them.
But these figures still obscure the fact that flying in an airplane is relatively safer than a number of other, more frequent activities. Check out this graph from the National Safety Council to see the odds of other activities.