The best seat for nervous flyers

Not a fan of flying? Here’s where to sit to get the smoothest ride on your next flight.

Not a fan of flying? Here’s where to sit to get the smoothest ride on your next flight.

SJ is a regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices. If she had one superpower, it would be teleportation – the ultimate cure for her fear of flying.

If you’re anything like me, the mere thought of turbulence is enough to make you dread stepping foot on a flight again. No matter how many times I’ve been told that turbulence is a normal and perfectly safe part of flying, it doesn’t stop me gripping, white knuckled, the arm rests every time we encounter some ‘unexpected’ bumps at 30,000 feet.

So, does your seat make a difference? Well, for anyone who’s ever sat at both the front and back end of the plane, the answer ‘yes’ will hardly come as a surprise. It’s a fairly well-known fact that turbulence is worse down the back of the plane – something I can sadly confirm having stupidly not checked in until the last minute on a five-hour flight back from Tenerife, only to end up three rows from the rear door during some of the worst turbulence I have ever experienced.

What you may not have realised is that the smoothest ride is actually to be found over the wings. According to Ask the Pilot, “The smoothest place to sit is over the wings, nearest to the plane’s centre of lift and gravity.” This is because as the plane flies through the sky with wind, airflow, torque and gravity all exerting force, it “rotates” around its centre of gravity.  The centre of gravity for planes is typically located toward the front of the wing, with the wing being what helps to lift the plane or, as aeronautical engineers refer to it – the “centre of lift”.

view of plane wing

The result is that sitting at this point where the plane’s centre of gravity and lift meet should ensure the smoothest possible flight. That said, if the plane does encounter turbulence, the whole aircraft will still shake – so no seat will ever be completely spared of the bumps – but by choosing your seat wisely you can minimise the experience.

As a nervous flyer, my advice is to lessen the stress often associated with flying by choosing your seat and picking one that is as close to the front of the wing, or over the wing as possible. It’s probably best not to take an exit row seat either, as you’re then required to listen to the whole spiel regarding worst case scenarios, something you probably don’t need to be subjected to right before take-off. If you have to choose front or back, I’d always favour front. Trust me on this one – no one wants a Tenerife turbulence experience that ends in tears and medicinal red wine!

Read more at Ask the Pilot. Which seat do you favour on flights and why?

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    COMMENTS

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    MICK
    25th Mar 2017
    6:21am
    Respectfully Sue you have this a bit wrong:

    1. the centre of lift is effectively the point the lift force acts through. There is lift right along the aerofoil but the 'resultant' acts through one point.
    2. the centre of gravity is the point where the mass (weight!) of the aircraft acts through. If you could balance the plane on one point this would be that point. It is not at the same place as the centre of lift. It is close and in front of the centre of lift.
    3. the reason why sitting on the wing (not literally) is the most comfortable point along the fuselage is because the whole plane has AEROELASTICITY. That means it flexes. If you watch the wingtips during takeoff you will see them move up and down. Frightening! The fuselage does exactly the same because, contrary to popular belief, it is not rigid. Sitting at the rear of the plane will guarantee you need to sea sick tablets. Sit over the wing and you will be fine....but the view is crook. Pick your poison.
    Sorry for the aerodynamics lesson. I know more than a little about this topic. Pilots have limited knowledge. But they fly the planes pretty well. Ok...when the computer is not flying it.
    Huskie
    25th Mar 2017
    11:25am
    Mick, well explained. But a down side of sitting over the wing is that you are also close to the fuel tanks. Sitting at the front of the aircraft also increases you chances of dying in the event of a crash (that's why First Class Fares are so high!), whilst sitting at the rear increases the chances of surviving since the tail tends to break off. One of the reasons the Cockpit Voice Recorder and Flight Data Recorder (Black Boxes) are located there.

    An aircraft in flight is pretty finely balanced. I can recall pilots of the old Fokker Fk27 telling me that they could tell when a passenger from the front of the aircraft got up and went down the rear
    MICK
    25th Mar 2017
    7:44pm
    Correct.
    Watto
    25th Mar 2017
    1:11pm
    Sitting at the front of the aircraft also increases you chances of dying in the event of a crash (that's why First Class Fares are so high!),

    Now that stupid comment just doesn't make sense. Just like the whole article.
    Polly Esther
    25th Mar 2017
    1:41pm
    That's right, anybody can and obviously will act like a Smart Aleck if they are given half an opportunity. Given an inch, they take a mile.
    Don't think either of them read the correct manual.
    MICK
    25th Mar 2017
    7:58pm
    Actually the article is perfectly valid and highlights a legitimate issue. You need to experience this first hand by booking a seat near the tailplane (the back!). The clarification above is factual.

    Huskie is also correct with his comment as survivors in a plane crash are almost always in the tail section which normally does not disintegrate like the rest of the fuselage. First class has absolutely nothing to do with anything.
    You actually have less chance of dying in a commercial plane disaster (if you avoid the third world carriers) than getting into your car, but please don't jinx me.
    Huskie
    25th Mar 2017
    10:02pm
    Watto. The comment was made in jest. I spent over 25 years as an Air Traffic Controller and Air Safety Investigator so like Mick I do have more than a little knowledge about this topic
    Watto
    26th Mar 2017
    2:44pm
    My apologies Huskie. Point taken after re-reading it. I have flown many times to Asia and UK and personally did not feel any change in the different seating arrangements.
    I used to fly a little Cessna 152 in my younger days and there was no change between the left or right seat. LOL
    MICK
    26th Mar 2017
    5:11pm
    Port and starboard!
    Watto
    27th Mar 2017
    9:06pm
    Correct


    Tags: travel, news, flying

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