British heavy metal legends IRON MAIDEN have posted a 13-minute video feature in which they "look back at the fun" they had with Ed Force One, their customized jumbo jet, captained by the band's lead singer, Bruce Dickinson. Check it out below.
Toward the end of last year, Air Charter Service received the interesting charter request: the client required a customized B747-400 for four months, to fly 48 sectors, covering six continents and carrying 22 tons of cargo on each leg and with IRON MAIDEN's singer flying it. The request was the first step towards creating the latest incarnation of IRON MAIDEN's Ed Force One — nicknamed after the band's mascot Eddie, whose manic image proudly adorns the tail.
IRON MAIDEN had experience and expertise with circumnavigation tours on the previous incarnations of Ed Force One, but these tours used a smaller B757 aircraft and were nowhere near the scale and reach of this latest project. Through Bruce Dickinson's relationships within the aviation industry, IRON MAIDEN had already picked out the ideal aircraft, but the operator, Air Atlanta, decided they needed more capacity to deliver such a massively complex undertaking. So they invited Air Charter Service to join them to deal with mountain of logistics required.
This tour presented particular challenges for all involved. After closely engaging with the band's management team, the first thing ACS did was to assemble an experienced team to work with the aircraft's operator, Air Atlanta, to make the thousands of necessary arrangements for the 48 legs in the 21 countries that the tour was visiting. ACS was responsible for arranging flight permissions outside of Europe and fuel as well as handling agents. Arranging such things on an ad-hoc basis is very different to a scheduled carrier who lands at the same airport at the same time every day. And at most airports, ACS had to deal with three separate companies — the cargo handlers for the 22 tons of stage equipment, VIP handling agents for the band and their "Killer Krew," as well as regular check-in desks for anyone else that was on board. Group commercial director Matt Purton said: "We must have dealt with more than 100 different handling agents and 300 other suppliers over the course of the four months that we were involved in the tour."
While ACS was making the initial necessary arrangements, preparation of the aircraft was under way in Sharjah, UAE. IRON MAIDEN's management had arranged for the aircraft to have its livery drastically modified with extra special decals along the length of the fuselage and the tail and the cabin seating was reconfigured to accommodate the band. The newly created Ed Force One then arrived at Cardiff Airport on February 17. On arrival, the aircraft interior was completely empty of supplies, so the next major job for ACS staff was a three day shopping expedition to stock the aircraft up with almost ten tonnes of day-to-day items to cover the needs of the passengers for the next four months.
The band's aviation-mad frontman, Bruce Dickinson, took up flying in 1993 and so was keen to take the controls on most of the flight sectors. He was formerly captain of the (now-defunct) U.K. charter airline Astraeus and launched Cardiff Aviation Ltd. in 2012.
It was not all plane sailing though, as in Santiago, Chile, when the plane had been closed up and everyone had settled in to their hotels for the night, airport workers moving the aircraft were involved in an incident involving a loose steering pin and an airport tug, which saw damage occur to two engines and the undercarriage as well as injury to two workers present as the tug was crushed. Suddenly Ed Force One was grounded but of course the show must go on, one way or another. Within hours, IRON MAIDEN's management, Air Atlanta, Rock-It Cargo and ACS all pulled together to make the necessary arrangements including alternative charters to take the band to the next show in Argentina, a charter and some scheduled seats were found for IRON MAIDEN's "Killer Krew" and the 20-plus tons of stage equipment and production was trucked successfully over a difficult pass through the Andes Mountains over the border into Cordoba. Alternative transport had to be rapidly arranged for the Argentine and Brazilian shows. Two massive new engines, engineers, parts, cowlings and tools were flown in from Europe, and within ten days, Ed Force One was once again ready to take to the skies. And we were all very happy to hear that the two airport workers made a full recovery.
To take a band, road crew and production equipment in a B747 around the world and into territories not previously visited by the band was ground-breaking: nothing like this had ever been attempted by anybody before. ACS worked seamlessly with IRON MAIDEN's tour management throughout, in order to meet the exacting needs of the tour logistics, concert schedule and the band and crew requirements.
Bruce and the rest of IRON MAIDEN continue to tour Europe, finishing up in Germany on August 4.