Transonic Carrots Event Review – Bob Jackson

Transonic Carrots Event Review – Bob Jackson

On 25th February 2023 the Stratford upon Avon Central Stores hosted yet another of their popular talks. This latest one was presented by Dr Steve Liddle, MEng (Hons) CEng FRAeS. The subject was Transonic Carrots – The Aerodynamic Challenge of the V-Bombers which we assured our visitors did not require a degree in aeronautics. 

Steve is a Trustee of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust and had been brought up in the age of V-Bombers, in more recent times he has applied his knowledge to the world of Motorsport, particularly in the area of Formula 1 aerodynamics with teams such as Red Bull, Renault and Aston Martin.  

So, surrounded by spare parts for the AVRO Vulcan and in front of a full house, Steve gave a fascinating insight into the development of not only aerodynamics but also the reasons for those developments.  

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From the early days of flight through to the challenges facing the aircraft designers with the arrival of jet engines and the realisation of the effects of the sound barrier. Explaining why the development faced such challenges, the needs to be able to carry the latest “special weapons”, the ability to fly higher and faster and the ability to understand why things happened as they did. 

By looking back, the designers were able to move forward in the realms of aerodynamics. Steve showed how, with design improvements, the drag on a Handley Page P13/36 could be improved further along with changes to the twin fins on the tail plane which could enhance handling characteristics to the extent that aircraft could have been almost as aerodynamic as a Supermarine Spitfire.

Moving on to the first jet bombers the choices of design become even more stark, from crescent winged such as Handley Page Victor or the Vickers Valiant, traditional, such as the Shorts Sperrin, Boeing B-52 Stratofortress or the outrageous AVRO Vulcan delta wing.

The two manufacturers with clearly different approaches were Handley Page and A.V. Roe. Steve elaborated with in depth analysis and graphics. The details of the Handley Page crescent shape and in comparison, the Avro delta wing. Particularly the effect of drag as speed increased towards the sound barrier Mach 1, and the ways that turbulence affected the aerodynamics.

And so, after an entertaining, enlightening and well received talk Steve took questions, all answered with the skill of a seasoned presenter, which he claims not to be.  

At this point we also congratulate Steve on being awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society – Journal of Aeronautical History Written Paper Prize for 2022 in recognition of his paper titled ‘Pearcey, Newby, and the Vulcan’ 

Post talk we had some questions relating to the Transonic Carrots in the title… The answer is in two parts: 

Firstly, it was a reference to the Kuchemann Carrot fairings used by the Victor.  

Secondly the use of ‘carrot’ as a word for ‘reward’ or ‘target’, as in, “What’s the carrot for doing that?” As Steve informed me It is entirely possible that nobody outside of F1 fraternity says that in real life though. Although it does of course resonate with dangling the carrot in front of the donkey as an incentive to move forward.


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We hope to continue these talks, by popular request during the spring/summer when hopefully it will be a little warmer.  

Bob Jackson 

Don’t miss our next event. the Midlands Premiere of ‘Attack on Sorpe Dam’, a film by Andrew Panton. The film tells the story of the 617 squadron’s daring raid on the Sorpe Dam, featuring stunning aerial footage and personal accounts from George ‘Johnny’ Johnson himself. Tickets are still available for the screening at Stratford Manor on 18 June. Don’t miss your chance to see this thrilling film!


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