7 May 2016 © David Eyre (Updated 14 May 2016)
Rock band Iron Maiden is flying into Perth from Adelaide on the afternoon of 13 May 2016, aboard their chartered Boeing 747-400, TF-AAK, ‘Ed Force One’.
The 747 has been chartered from Air Atlanta Icelandic as part of the band’s ‘Book of Souls’ World Tour, and is being flown by the band’s lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, who is a qualified commercial pilot. The aircraft is named ‘Ed Force One’ after the band’s mascot, Eddie, who features on all of their album covers, and the Eddie is also painted on the tail.
The tour started on 19 February 2016, and the aircraft will make 50 stops in 35 countries, on six of the seven continents (Australasia, Asia, North and South America, Africa and Europe) as part of the 47-concert tour.
Why a 747?
In previous world tours in 2008, 2009 and 2011, Iron Maiden previously used Boeing 757-200 aircraft chartered from Bruce Dickinson’s employer, Air Astraeus, which later ceased operations.
The 757s required conversion to combi configuration (passenger/freight on the main deck) to fit all of the band’s equipment.
The band decided that a Boeing 757 was not big enough for this tour. The larger Boeing 747 can transport the crew and 12 tons of stage gear – the band modified the stage equipment, so that it would fit on pallets in the underfloor cargo hold.
The 747’s longer range means that it does not have to make multi-sector trips, enabling long flights such as Shanghai to Auckland and Perth to Cape Town (South Africa), where the band will perform after the Perth concert.
History of Ed Force One
- 2003: Built for Air France as a 747-428, powered by General Electric CF6-80C2B1F engines. Cabin configured for 36 Business Class and 396 Economy Class seats.
- 5 March 2003: First flight at Everett, Seattle as F-GITH.
- 31 March 2003: Delivered to Air France
- 22 October 2015: Withdrawn from service
- 28 October 2015: Flown to Lourdes, France and stored.
- 23 November 2015: Re-registered TF-AAK, to Air Atlanta Icelandic.
- February 2016: Painted in Iron Maiden ‘Ed Force One’ special livery.
- 19 February 2016: Chartered to Iron Maiden and commenced ‘Book of Souls’ world tour, flown lead singer/airline pilot Bruce Dickinson.
- 12 March 2016: Damaged at Santiago, Chile, when it was being towed and the steering pin fell out. The aircraft had no steering and collided with a ground tug, damaging two engines and the undercarriage.
- 22 March 2016: Returned to service following repairs.
- 13 May 2016: Arrived in Perth from Adelaide.
- 15 May 2016: Departs Perth at 11:30am to Cape Town, South Africa.
The aircraft uses radio call sign ‘ATLANTA 666’.
Pilot and Lead Singer, Bruce Dickinson
Lead singer Bruce Dickinson had loved aviation since he was a boy.
Iron Maiden’s drummer Nicko McBrain was learning to fly in a Piper Cherokee with an instructor and they gave Bruce a lift from France to the island of Jersey. Bruce later took a trial flight at Kissimmee, Florida and decided to learn to fly.
He trained at Ardmore, New Zealand and Leavesden, UK, and obtained his pilot’s licence in 1991, initially flying small single-engine light aircraft. He later furthered his training to get additional ratings and acquired a Piper PA-23 Turbo Aztec E.
In 1993, he left the band and commenced a career in commercial aviation. He started flying as a co-pilot with Air Atlantique in the UK and purchased a Cessna 421.
He later flew twin-engine turboprops and small jets. He began flying for British World Airlines, but that airline collapsed in 2001, soon after the September 11 terror attacks.
Following this, he flew for Astraeus Airlines in the UK, initially on Boeing 737s, before converting to the Boeing 757. Astraeus ceased operations in November 2011 – Dickinson was the captain of their last flight.
He is now Chairman of Cardiff Aviation, a maintenance and overhaul facility at the former RAF base at St Athan, Wales, which also conducts flight simulator training. He also invested in Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), the British-based developer of Airlander 10 hybrid airship at Cardington, Bedfordshire.
Dickinson now has over 20 years’ and 7,000 hours of flying experience.
He had to train for around six weeks to learn how to fly the 747-400, training in simulators at Cardiff and in Florida.