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I know in a bus, for instance, (well, at least on a school bus, when I traveled to out-of-town basketball games in high school) the farther back you are, the bumpier your ride tends to be. Is there a similar situation when a vehicle is airborne?

For the quietest ride, you clearly want to sit away from the engines. But I'm curious if there is a part of the airplane that offers the smoothest ride. That is, most free from vibrations during flight, or during take-off and landing.

I imagine the answer may be different for aircraft that have their engines mounted on the tail versus those with the engines mounted on the wings. And maybe other factors play into the equation as well.

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On the passenger buses where the front wheel is (MCI/Prevost/VanHool) slightly behind the driver the ride is just as bumpy. :) –  Karlson Feb 7 '12 at 19:50
    
So where's the smoothest seat in a bus? :-) –  Gnubie Oct 11 '12 at 18:59
    
@Gnubie That would be a good question to ask. –  Karlson Dec 14 '12 at 14:28
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3 Answers

up vote 25 down vote accepted

It varies a little depending on the type of plane, but in general during flight over the wings, or slightly forward of the wings gives the least amount of movement - especially for planes where the engines are mounted on the wings (rather than on/near the tail).

Take-off/landing is a little different. For take-off there's not a lot of difference - the nose of the plane leaves the ground first so there's normally a sharper movement at the front as that occurs, but the front is also off the ground earlier so potentially less bumpy for a short period of time.

For landing, the intention is for the rear wheels to hit the ground first, followed by the nose wheels. Presuming that happens, the front is much more smooth, and feels less of the bounce as the plane initially hits the ground. In a bad landing the nose wheel can hit the ground around the same time as the other wheels, which causes a shock at the front of the plane worse than what you'd normally feel at the back - but that's pretty rare.

Of course, the other way to answer the question is that the "smoothest" ride is in whichever part of the plane First Class is - if only because the seats are more comfortable (and the alcohol is free!) so you won't feel the bumps as much as in economy.

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Moreover, the airline likely positioned the First Class and Business seats where they are because they believed it was inherently the most comfortable section. –  Matthew Flaschen Feb 5 '12 at 3:21
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I think the first class section is usually placed near the front of the air plane so that FC passengers can be the first to board and get off. Perhaps to be closer to restrooms and the flight attendant station, too. –  Flimzy Feb 5 '12 at 4:21
    
that's indeed the real reason, and of course it's easier to have the cabin split once than have 2 economy cabins separated by a business class cabin (especially on smaller aircraft where there's not enough crew, toilets, and pantries to serve 3 cabin sections). It's logistics, the comfort differences due to ride roughness are small enough as to be irrelevant. –  jwenting Feb 6 '12 at 6:47
    
I would add that the window seats experience more vertical motion when a wide-body airplane banks. –  200_success Aug 18 '13 at 8:35
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In all my time of flying the best place to sit in an airplane is just beyond the start of the wing root. Normally this is where the beams providing rigidity for the wings are so when there is turbulence or take off or landing the deformation of the fuselage where you are sitting would be minimal and hence provide a smoother ride.

This is slightly different if the wing is mounted over the fuselage but still provides the safer and smoother place than any other on the aircraft.

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By "just beyond" do you mean just in front of, or just behind? –  Flimzy Feb 7 '12 at 19:26
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@Flimzy I meant just behind. If you can get it just in front that will work too but in larger planes you will have a divider in front of you and I don't like it. –  Karlson Feb 7 '12 at 19:46
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This is somewhat a subjective question and somewhat not. Seats towards the back of the plane will make you feel queasier due to slightly greater g-force during take-off and landing, for example. As Doc has pointed out in his answer, sections close to the wings are more 'stable'. The other way to look at this would be that not all seats even with the same cabin class have the same amount of recline or seat spacing - for this, check your flight on SeatGuru.com which gives you a helpful colour-coded guide according to your aircraft type for a particular airline on what the best seats are.

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another added discomfort of seats in the rear of aircraft with tail mounted engines (or near the wings in AvroJets) is noise. –  jwenting Feb 6 '12 at 6:48
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