Photo: Aureliy/Shutterstock

Where to Sit on a Plane to Experience the Least Amount of Turbulence

Travel Safety Airports + Flying
by Katie Scott Aiton Apr 4, 2024

Turbulence. The dreaded word that sends shivers down the spine of many flyers — even those who don’t suffer from flying anxiety. It’s never pleasant white-knuckling your way through a journey, but there might be a way to minimize the effects of a choppy flight by strategically choosing your seat. Of course, no seat is completely immune to turbulence, but science points towards a prime location: the middle seat directly over the wing.

The best way to explain this concept is to think of a seesaw or a pen tipping back and forth. In this video, a pilot explains that if you want a smoother ride, you should sit closer to the middle — the center point of rotation.

The airplane behaves similarly to the pen being tipped back and forth. It has a center of gravity, the point where the weight of the entire aircraft is balanced. This center of gravity is typically located near the front of the wings.

As the pilot bounces the pen, he says, “You can see the back of the plane is being friggin rocked.”

Turbulence, essentially air fluctuations, causes the plane to pivot around its center of gravity. So, the farther you are from the core, the more pronounced the movement you’ll experience.

So, opting for a middle seat in the row above the wings makes sense. The design of the wings of an aircraft plays a crucial role in dampening turbulence. As the aircraft hits air fluctuations, the wings, due to their aerodynamic properties, act like giant shock absorbers, mitigating the jolts before they reach the main body of the aircraft where passengers are seated.

The pilot concludes by saying that, unfortunately, there’s no real escaping being bounced around and that although it’s not an enjoyable experience, turbulence is not dangerous. He says, “Watch a movie, take a nap, enjoy the ride.” Perhaps easier said than done when you’re in the moment, but rest assured, it will pass.

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