Phil Whalley has submitted the following report to BLABBERMOUTH.NET:Normally seen performing in front of hundreds of thousands of screaming rock fans in stadiums all around the world, IRON MAIDEN vocalist Bruce Dickinson visited Hawkwell Village Hall in Hockley, England and its capacity of just 125 on Saturday, December 6 to regale the enthralled audience with his tales as a rock icon and as an airline captain. The audience at Hockley included a mix of both aviation enthusiasts and IRON MAIDEN fans, and some who are both — and all enjoyed the experience. One attendee, Jeanne Armstrong, came all the way from California to see her hero.
Bruce's visit to Southend had been organized by the Vulcan Restoration Trust, the registered charity that looks after the "Southend Vulcan" at the airport. The Trust holds a number of events throughout the year to raise funds for the continuing restoration and preservation of the iconic ex-RAF cold war bomber. Being totally reliant on public support, events such as these not only bring in vital income, but also attract the public to become members of the Trust. The annual memberships are the Trust's largest income. Details can be found at www.avrovulcan.com. The web site's online shop is, among other items, now selling autographed photo montages signed by Bruce.
During the morning before visiting the Hall, Bruce took the controls of the Vulcan to run the engines as part of the ongoing engineering regime. After the engine run, he posed in front of the Vulcan with the VRT's chief engineer and IRON MAIDEN fan Matt Lawrence. The rock star is not a stranger to Avro Vulcan B2 XL426, having visited in 2006 and taken the jet for a high-speed taxi run down Southend's runway, reaching over 100 mph, before using the aircraft's brake chute to bring her to a stop. This event was open to the public, but was marred by extremely bad weather. Ever since then, the Trust has been trying to get Bruce back to Southend to entertain its members. And entertain them he certainly did. Bruce left IRON MAIDEN for a period in the 1990s to learn to fly airliners, including a spell with the now-defunct British World Airlines at Southend airport. Now a fully qualified captain with UK airline Astraeus, Bruce is back with IRON MAIDEN and pilots the airline's modified and specially named Boeing 757, "Ed Force One", jet carrying the band, its equipment and an army of "roadies" and support team around on their continuing "Somewhere Back In Time World Tour".
Bruce is an enthusiastic aviator, having been taken to airshows as a child, and has hosted a television series titled "Flying Heavy Metal" for which he flew many kinds of historic aircraft. He has appeared in the news recently for his part in repatriating British troops to the U.K., and bringing home stranded passengers after their airline went bust. All photos below were taken by Phil Whalley.