Following on from Why are first/business class seats at the front?, in which part of a large commercial jet cabin would I experience the least turbulence? On the one hand I would have said that sitting near the wings (near the centre of gravity) is best, but subjectively it feels like the ride near the front is "smoother". Can anyone give me some more solid information? I imagine it also depends on the aircraft type?
The elasticity of the fuselage does indeed dampen the load factors from gusts somewhat. Therefore, gust-induced accelerations are a little higher over the wing than in the forward or rear fuselage. If the gust causes a pitching motion, this creates its own accelerations which adds to the bumps from the vertical accelerations. Elevator deflections cause similar pitching motions, and their accelerations are more pronounced in the rear fuselage since the aircraft will pivot around a point ahead of the center of gravity.
The main factor, however, is the location of the axis of rotation of the Dutch roll eigenmotion of airliners. This is a weakly damped oscillation which creates lateral accelerations which are bigger the more aft you sit in the fuselage. The Convair 880 was hurriedly test-flown with nobody sitting in the back, and the pilots were happy with its comfort level. The first passengers, however, got seasick from the Dutch roll motion, which was only detected when the passengers sitting in the rear of the cabin complained.
Modern airliners offer better comfort thanks to artificially enhanced stability, but even there you are better off sitting in front. I once flew on an Egypt Air Boeing 777 from Cairo to Frankfurt, and the captain flew through the tops of Cumulus clouds sitting over the Alps. Soon the obvious sounds and smell told me that people in the back were filling their air sickness bags. Maybe half of the rear third of the seats was affected, while the forward two thirds had only a few cases of airsick passengers.
The seats over the wings should have the least turbulence as they are near to the center of mass and center of pressure(over which the lift acts).
The front and rear should experience more (with slightly more in the aft).