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”.
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?