How A Heavy Metal Legend Took To The Air To Fulfill His Dreams

Metalheart, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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The music that we love is an extension of other parts of our personalities. Heavy tunes might propel us through our days, but other passions are just as important. 


You might think that when a band gets successful that it becomes a full-time job and everything else has to go on the backburner. While that’s certainly the case for many musicians, the ambitions of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson could never allow him to sit still between tours and recording sessions. 


In a 2007 interview with CNN, he spoke about wanting to become a pilot from an early age but that feeling insecure kept him from pursuing that dream, saying: “Aviation’s been kicking around my family for as long as I can remember; my uncle was in the RAF [Royal Air Force]. 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 did indeed learn how to fly. After getting his pilot’s license in 1991, he continually gained more qualifications so that he could fly bigger planes on longer journeys. After a period of time, he began flying Iron Maiden on tour and eventually scored a job with the now-defunct British World Airlines. 


He later became a pilot for charter airline Astraeus until that company went out of business in 2011. Dickinson told Wales Online about his heartbreak over the airline’s closing, saying: “Because I loved flying, I was working for a company which had airplanes for hire and I was a captain there for several years. The company went bust in 2011 and I had never been in a company that had gone bust before.


“Because of the other things I do, it wasn’t as though I was out on my ear and couldn’t afford the price of a meat pie, but it was really distressing to see. We had close [to] 400 employees and to see all those people, all of that training and all of that camaraderie all just vanish overnight, I thought I never want to do that again.”


Determined to not suffer a repeat of that experience, Dickinson started his own aircraft maintenance and pilot training company. Originally called Cardiff Aviation, it has since been restructured as Caerdav, with the singer acting as the firm’s chairman. Explaining Caerdav’s main business model, Dickinson said: “We maintain large commercial transport airplanes.

We have a sweet spot at the moment for Boeing 737s and Airbus narrowbodies — the Airbus A320 family. However, we also have capabilities for larger aircraft like 767s and 757s. We do everything from changing the engines and the landing gear to interior refits, electronic upgrades and complete strip downs and rebuilds.”


Although there were plans for Dickinson to operate a small airline on top of his work at Caerdav, that idea never materialized. The segment of his business that instructs pilots “is holding its own today, we’ve got some simulators that work and pay the rent.”


While Dickinson is still passionate about aviation, the Iron Maiden frontman’s days of chauffeuring the band around are over. When asked in 2022 by The Associated Press if he would be serving as pilot on an upcoming tour, Dickinson said: “Oh, no, no, no, no. We’re going to be flying and I’m going to be in the back. Hey, look, I’m 63 — I’m 64 in August. You know, when you get to 65, if you’re an airline pilot, they just take you out the back and shoot, right? So, I’m going to be sitting in the back being the backseat driver.”


According to both the Federal Aviation Administration and the International Civil Aviation Organization, commercial pilots must  retire at age 65. That being said, there is currently no maximum age limit for being a private pilot or for flying in the Air Force.