Iron Maiden’s Ed Force One Boeing 747 was everything a celebrity endorsement should be. Beautifully liveried and piloted by the lead singer himself, TF-AAK made star-studded appearances all over the world as part of the Book Of Souls world tour. But what happened to the Iron Maiden 747, and where is it now?
The upgraded Ed Force One
The Queen of the Skies has a cult-level fan following, so when a band with similar brand status hooked up with its very own 747, it was a match made in heaven. Nicknamed Ed Force One, the Boeing 747 registered TF-AAK took the band around the globe on the ‘Book Of Souls’ world tour, frequently piloted by legendary frontman Bruce Dickinson himself.
Of course, it wasn’t the first plane Iron Maiden had at its disposal. From 2008 to 2009, a Boeing 757 with tail number G-OJIB took the band on tour for the Somewhere Back In Time World Tour. And in 2011, G-STRX was liveried up in The Final Frontier World Tour to become the newest Ed Force One.
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Despite the band’s love for the smaller Boeings, for Dickinson, nothing could compare to the Queen of the Skies. Speaking to Blabbermouth in 2016, he said the 757 was just not big enough anymore. He said,
“The  is just not big enough for what we’ve got in mind in terms of a show. So what we’ve got onboard at the moment is the stage show … Everything we need will be on the airplane, and all the technicians and baggage and everything else. We’re going all around the world [from] Perth, Australia to Cape Town, Shanghai to New Zealand. We’re really going ’round the planet.”
Around the planet
And TF-AAK really did go around the planet for Iron Maiden. Launching from Cardiff, it headed to the west. Stopping at various points around the States, it headed down to Mexico, to gigs in Central America and then down to South America. In Santiago, Chile, it was damaged in a collision with a tug, but was rapidly repaired and sent back on its way.
It continued the tour around North America, taking in major venues in the USA and Canada. Then it was across to Asia for performances in Japan and China, before heading south to New Zealand and Australia.
The band then hit South Africa before heading north to perform no less than 51 dates around Europe. Finally, they headed back to North America for additional tour bookings.
The final performance was in Brooklyn in July 2017, by which time the band had played 117 shows in 36 countries to more than 1.3 million fans. It earned them more than $91 million and cemented their place in rock history. But what became of the 747-400?
Where did she go?
Before removing her Ed Force One livery, TF-AAK made one last trip to bring 350 Icelandic football fans to Marseille for an Iceland vs. Hungary match. She flew back to Keflavik on June 19th, arriving just after 17:00. The very same day, at around 21:00, TF-AAK flew off to the Middle East to start the next phase of her career.
After a month in maintenance to get re-liveried, TF-AAK rolled out of the hangar in full Saudi Arabian Airlines clothes. Still owned by Air Atlanta Icelandic, she joined the Middle Eastern airline on lease, taking the number of 747-400s in its service to six. Only three, including AAK, are passenger 747s.
— Airport Webcams (@AirportWebcams) September 6, 2016
Since joining the fleet, she’s been in regular operation by the airline, flying between Jeddah and several key destinations, including Surabaya, Addis Ababa and Dhaka. Sadly, due to the global pandemic, she was parked up in March along with her two siblings and hasn’t operated a passenger flight since.
Despite the demise of the 747 around the world, TF-AAK is still relatively young at just 17 and a half years of age. She’s got a few good years left in her yet, and we’d anticipate she will return to service for Saudia at some point in the future. In fact, according to FlightRadar24.com, the airline operated a 22-minute flight from Jeddah to Jeddah in June, likely a maintenance flight, suggesting they are planning to bring her back into operations when demand and restrictions allow.
Have you ever flown on TF-AAK? Let us know in the comments.