To get to all of their fans around the world, Iron Maiden has toured on Boeing 757 and 747 aircraft, piloted by the band’s own vocalist Bruce Dickinson. The planes are the stuff of rock legend, so where exactly are they now?
“Chuck everything into one plane”
Sometimes, when singers take breaks from their groups, it ends in irreparable rifts and irrevocable dissolution of the band. However, in the case of lead singer Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, the result of his leave of absence has helped morph heavy metal legend itself.
During Dickinson’s six-year hiatus from the East London rock band, which spanned from 1993 to 1999, he trained and became certified as a pilot. When the group was planning its 2008 tour, he came up with a way to reach as many fans as possible.
“The bean counters said it’s just not worth going to places like India and Costa Rica. Being an aviation bloke, I thought to myself, ‘If you just chucked everything into one airplane you could do an almost European-type itinerary, but on an inter-continental basis,” Dickinson told Rolling Stone in 2009.
“When we finally got approval, I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, what have I done now?’ This is all going to be my fault if it all goes terribly wrong,” Dickinson continued.
At the time type-rated for the 737 and the 757, the lead singer ended up flying the band around himself. He later completed his training for the 747, just in time to pick up the yoke for the band’s upgrade from twin-engine to quadjet in 2016. Now, what is more rockstar than that?
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Somewhere back on the first “Ed Force One”
To start with, the band and its management went with a Boeing 757 registered as G-OJIB for its 2008 to 2009 “Somewhere Back in Time” tour. It was dubbed “Ed Force One,” following a naming competition among fans. It was painted with the band’s mascot Eddie on the tail fin and its name across the fuselage’s front part.
Throughout the tour, which featured a set-list made up almost entirely of the band’s 1980’s classics, the plane ferried them across four continents. It included stops in Australia, India, Japan, and several across South America.
Dickinson reached out to his friends at Astraeus
The aircraft, along with the second 757 to bear an Iron Maiden livery, G-STRX, both came from Dickinson’s “day job” airline, British charter carrier Astraeus. The band had originally intended to use the same plane for its second airborne tour, Final Frontier, in 2011 as it had for the 08-09.
This probably had to do with the modifications that needed to take place for the plane to safely hold all that extra stage set-up, gear, and equipment – along with passengers.
However, a last-minute change saw the group embark on its next world tour with G-STRX instead. The plane took Iron Maiden to no less than 39 countries, where the band performed 100 shows.
Similar backgrounds, different fates
The two Iron Maiden Boeing 757-200s had similar histories before they shot to heavy metal stardom. G-OJIB, built in 1989, flew for UK carrier Air 2000 and Canada 3000 Airlines and Skyservice and First Choice before arriving with Astraeus in 2006.
G-STRX went straight to Canada 3000 Airlines from the factory in 1992. Omni Air International then operated it from 2003 until it went to Astraeus in 2008.
When Gatwick-based Astraeus ceased operations in November 2011, however, the fate of the two 757-200s took different paths. G-STRIX was not long for this world. At just over 20 years of age, it was taken apart at Phoenix Goodyear Airport (at the time known as Goodyear Litchfield Municipal) in July 2012.
G-OJIB reconfigured for cargo
Meanwhile, the original tour-jet, G-OJIB, is still flying. Having undergone a reconfiguration to now carry only cargo, no musicians, it entered service with Federal Express, FedEx, in May 2013. It was registered as N938FD and named Isabella.
The aircraft operated a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Salt Lake City during the night and is scheduled to continue to Ontario later today, December 18th. The near 32-year-old is in good company; FedEx operates a fleet of no less than 119 Boeing 757s.
From Book of Souls to Euro 2016 to Jeddah
That only leaves us with the 2016 “Book of Souls” tour vehicle: Iron Maiden’s famed Boeing 747-400. Registered as TF-AAK began her career with Air France in 2003. It left the French flag-carrier for more northern climes in 2015 and joined the fleet of Air Atlanta Icelandic.
Having flown literally across the world, with stops in countries including China, Japan, South Africa, Australia, and all across North and South America, the band concluded its tour with a show in Brooklyn, New York, in July 2017. Meanwhile, Ed Force One dropped off from the tour in June 2016.
When it was returned from its mission of ferrying one of the most famous heavy metal bands of all time, it operated one more flight with the livery. It ferried 350 Icelandic soccer fans to a Euro 2016 match between Iceland and Hungary in Marseille. The game ended 1-1 after an excruciating self-goal by an Icelandic defender in the very last minutes.
The Keflavik-based charter and ACMI specialist Air Atlanta Icelandic operates one of the world’s largest fleet of Boeing 747-400s. However, the eponymous TF-AAK has moved on. While she still belongs to Air Atlanta Icelandic, she is operated by Saudia since August 2016.
— JetPhotos (@JetPhotos) September 6, 2016
The 17-year-old Queen has kept busy in the Middle East, flying passengers to and from Jeddah to key destinations throughout the region and Africa. Unfortunately, along came 2020, and she was grounded in March due to a lack of demand. However, all hope is not yet lost as we have previously reported Saudia operating a 22-minute maintenance flight from Jeddah and back again in June.
Have you ever been to one of Iron Maiden’s concerts? Have you ever seen the planes live? Let us know in the comments.