This Day in Music, September 8: Come Fly With Me

By , Contributor

On this day in 2002, Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson started his new job as an airline pilot. The heavy metal singer qualified as a £35,000 a year first officer with Gatwick-based airline Astraeus who took holidaymakers to Portugal and Egypt. Dickinson had learned to fly recreationally in Florida in the 1990s.

A rock star flying holidaymakers around Europe? Dickinson was better known for belting out “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter” and “Die With Your Boots On.” Whatever next? Brian May working at the Planetarium in London? Alice Cooper giving golf lessons?

"This is your captain speaking, I’d just like to welcome everybody on board this flight today and let's hear everybody go 'wooooooooo,' I said 'woooooooo!'"

He’s a clever sod, that Dickinson. Not only did he learn to fly, he’s apparently a champion fencer (when he was 15 he became captain of the school team), and he turned his hand to radio broadcasting (he presented the BBC Friday Rock Show for eight years). What heappened to all the sex, drugs, and rock and roll? Did you know as a pilot, you can’t even have half a lager the night before flying? (Unlike driving, being in charge of a plane you can’t have had a drink within eight hours of take-off or still be under the influence of any alcohol. "Eight hours bottle to throttle" is the rule.)

Paul Bruce Dickinson was born in the small mining town of Worksop, Nottinghamshire. His mother Sonia worked part-time in a shoe shop and his father Bruce was a mechanic in the army.

Dickinson became addicted to heavy rock after hearing Deep Purple's "Child In Time", and as a result, the first album he ever bought was Deep Purple In Rock, which led to him getting into other rock acts like Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

After leaving school with A-levels in English, History and Economics, Dickinson stated: "I didn't really know what I wanted to do”. The first thing he did was join the Territorial Army for six months. This wasn’t for him. He went on to join local bands including Styx (not the American band of the same name) in 1976, Speed (1977-1978), and Shots, who he joined after he spotted an advertisement in Melody Maker with the caption "Singer wanted for recording project". He apparently "wailed and wolfed and hollered and just made noises" onto a tape and sent it with a note which read, "By the way, if you think the singing's crap, there's some John Cleese stuff recorded on the other side you might find amusing." They liked what they heard and invited Dickinson down to the studio.

He then joined the band Samson later in 1979, where he gained some popularity. In this band he went by the name of "Bruce Bruce." He left Samson in 1981, citing musical differences. Shortly afterwards, in 1981, Dickinson was hired as Iron Maiden's new vocalist, replacing Paul Di'Anno, and debuting for that band with the 1982 album The Number Of The Beast.

Dickinson quit Iron Maiden in 1993 in order to pursue his solo career (being replaced by Blaze Bayley). Dickinson's solo work ranged across a wide variety of heavy metal and rock styles. He then rejoined Maiden in 1999  and since then, Dickinson has only released one more solo album, Tyranny of Souls.

Back to his day job: In mid-2006, Dickinson flew about 200 UK citizens home from Lebanon during the Israel/Hezbollah conflict, and following Hurricane Irene in August 2011, Dickinson was one of the first pilots to be ready to fly out of New York.

For the 2008-2009 Somewhere Back in Time World Tour, Dickinson piloted Iron Maiden's chartered Boeing 757, dubbed Ed Force One (after a competition on the band's website), specially converted to carry the band's equipment between continents. Dickinson flew Ed Force One again for the Final Frontier World Tour in 2011.

The singer recently said that despite rumours that they were considering retirement, Iron Maiden plan to make at least one more album and have begun planning for the recording of the follow-up to 2010's The Final Frontier, which was the 15th studio LP of the veteran band's career.

As of 16 September 2010, Astraeus have employed Dickinson as Marketing Director - which is a brilliant piece of PR. You make your star pilot the Marketing Director. How could he fail, charismatic rock star pilot flying the flag for your company.

I’m not a big Maiden fan, but that’s not important. I say hats off to Bruce, for running two highly careers in unison. I’d like to see Ozzy Osbourne try that! In fact thinking about it, if you heard Ozzy come on the plane's PA, saying, “This is your captain speaking, my name is Ozzy Osbourne”, there would be a mad scramble to escape out the emergency exits.

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A former musician, Neil was in the 80's group The Cheaters who were once signed to EMI's Parlophone label, and released three albums. He was also a radio presenter and is still a regular music pundit on various BBC stations. Neil is the founder of the award winning web site This Day in Music which is…

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