FORT LAUDERDALE — Legendary Heavy Metal Band Iron Maiden kicked off their Book of Souls World Tour Friday afternoon at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. The undisputable highlight? The all-new and upgraded Boeing 747 version of their renowned “Ed Force One” as the band calls its tour aircraft, once again at the command of one of the most popular airline pilots in the world: The band’s lead singer, Bruce Dickinson.
Dickinson, always faithful to his passion for aviation, is not only one of the most influential figures in the Heavy Metal genre, but also a commercial pilot with over 20 years of experience in the airline charter industry and over 7,000 hours clocked under his belt.
An AvGeek at heart, Dickinson traces his aviation roots to his youth days, when he had relatives in the Royal Air Force. After getting his license in 1991, he began flying small single engine, escalating his way through twin-engine turboprops and small jets, and flying the band on tour.
Dickinson began his incursion in the airline industry at the now defunct British World Airways, following a close partnership with British charter airline Astraeus until the airline’s demise in 2011, being the captain of its very last flight, a Boeing 757-200 charter flight from Jeddah to Manchester, carrying pilgrims back from Hajj.
His latest aviation venture is Cardiff Aviation, a maintenance and overhaul facility which also incorporates flight simulators for pilot training.
Using a 2003-built Boeing 747-428 leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic (TF-AAK / MSN 32868 / LN 1325), Iron Maiden brings back its renowned “Ed Force One”, which since its debut as a Boeing 757 in 2008 has become an icon for the band and their tours.
The first Ed Force One, an Astraeus 757 registered G-OJIB (MSN 24292), debuted on the band’s 2008 Somewhere Back in Time World Tour. It caused such a sensation among the fans and the general population that it became a tradition on every Iron Maiden tour since then.
Its successor for the 2011 The Final Frontier World Tour, was also an Astraeus 757, registered G-STRX (MSN 25621)
The new Ed Force One, like its 757 predecessors, wears the band’s name and the tour name on the fuselage and the band’s mascot, “Eddie the Head”, at the tail.
Dickinson, who trained for the 747 at his simulators in Cardiff Aviation, mentioned at the press conference following his arrival in Fort Lauderdale that he finished his last 2-3 weeks of training in Florida, right before flying to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates to pick up the aircraft, where it was being prepared for the tour.
When asked about the reason behind choosing a Boeing 747 for the tour instead of another Boeing 757 or similar sized aircraft, Dickinson—a declared fan of the Queen of the Skies—explained that the 747, because of its massive size, offers a much more optimal capacity for the band to carry its production and stage equipment without resorting to the intense modifications done to the 757s, which were converted to a Combi configuration in the previous tours in order to be able to carry all of the band’s equipment.
Following the band’s opening concert in Fort Lauderdale on February 24th, next stop for Ed Force One will be Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the band will play on February 28th.