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Your captain today is a rock legend

  • Story Highlights
  • Iron Maiden frontman, Bruce Dickinson now works as a commercial pilot
  • The band are considered legends of the heavy metal scene
  • Dickinson began flying for fun, but wanted to pilot something larger
  • Next Article in World »
By Peter Sorel-Cameron
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(CNN) -- What do you do after fronting one of the world's biggest metal bands? Settle down and live a quiet life? Continue claiming that you are the cutting edge of music, even though you've only been releasing greatest hits records for the last ten years? Not if you're Bruce Dickinson.


By day, the heavy rock legend Bruce Dickinson takes to the skies as a mild-mannered commercial airline pilot.

He was the powerful presence at the front of Iron Maiden when they made some of their biggest and best recordings, and for more than a decade he was considered one of heavy metal's spokesmen.

Today, however, although he still tours with the band, his main passion is for the skies. By night he is the screaming, posturing frontman of a band that packs stadiums and festivals; but by day he is the mild-mannered pilot of a 757 passenger plane.

"Aviation's been kicking around my family for as long as I can remember; my uncle was in the RAF," says Dickinson. "But I always thought I was too stupid. I was useless at maths and majored in history at university, so I thought history majors don't become pilots, let alone rock stars. And then our drummer learned to fly so I said if a drummer can learn to fly then anyone can."

Dickinson left Iron Maiden in 1993 when they were still considered the mainstays of the heavy metal scene, to pursue a solo career and to broaden his already wide horizons -- five years earlier he highlighted a passion for the sport of fencing when he founded sports equipment company Duellist.

It was also during this period that he began training to become a pilot. "I turned up to a flight school in Florida, jumped in and did a trial lesson, and that was it. 15,000 feet over Florida, I was just severely bitten," he says.

Years later he hasn't been able to shake the addiction, in fact he has taken it one step further, and made it his job.

"I never dreamed I would end up flying an airliner," he continues. "I ended up flying Iron Maiden around on tour in a little eight-seat, pressurized, twin-engine plane. Basically we were flying round all the world's major airports, flew across the Atlantic and back, which was quite an adventure. At the end I thought I really want to fly something bigger, but I can't afford it -- I can't buy my own 707. If I'm going to do that I have to get a job."

So he made the transition from recreational pilot to captain of a commercial airliner. Today, if you board an Astraeus flight you may be welcomed aboard and soothed into your seat by the voice of one of the legends of hard rock.

And how does the thrill of piloting a 757 compare to taking to the stage with Maiden? "It's a different kind of buzz. Obviously you aren't leaping around the flight deck yelling and screaming, but you have to manage situations... Flying at 35,000 feet is an internal thing, really. Whereas 35,000 people, that's just showing off."

So the rocker has mellowed out. Does this mean he will be hanging up his leopard-skin spandex for ever? "I could never contemplate giving up music. I have to say I've always been interested in planes, the only difference is I started to fly the darn things 15 years ago. I don't see why I should give up either of them. People say 'Why do you need a second job?' I say 'Why do you need to breathe?'"

So, for the foreseeable future at least, Bruce Dickinson will continue his double life, bringing the power of rock to fans around the world and then, potentially, flying them home. "Like my dad always used to say, always have a backstop, you never know when it's all going to go belly up." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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