The Hybrid Air Vehicles–designed, blimp-like airship, dubbed the HAV Airlander, stretches the length of a football field, making it nearly 60 feet longer than a Boeing 747 and two-and-a-half times the distance the Wright brothers’ first plane traveled. It cost roughly $100 million to create, and its designers are already planning an even bigger one. Dickinson, who manned a Boeing 757 as he flew his band around the world on tour in recent years, has said that, as an investor, he hopes to sell Airlanders.
“It’s a game-changer, in terms of things we can have in the air and things we can do,” Dickinson told the BBC. “The airship has always been with us; it’s just been waiting for the technology to catch up.”
The singer said that he hopes to garner publicity for the aircraft by taking a nonstop trip around the earth – twice. “It seizes my imagination,” he said. “I want to get in this thing and fly it pole to pole. We’ll fly over the Amazon at 20 feet, over some of the world’s greatest cities and stream the whole thing on the Internet.”
The vehicle’s top speed is only 100 miles per hour, but it can carry up to 50 tons of cargo at a time – about 50 times what a single helicopter can lift. It requires only a crew of two people to operate it.
The U.S. Army had been working on the HAV Airlander until it ran out of funding and had hoped to use it as a surveillance tool, as it’s capable of staying in the same spot for 21 days at a time. It can also fly with bullet holes in it.
British developers bought it back and are planning its inaugural lift-off later this year. The British company’s goal is to sell the Airlander to oil and mining companies that need to transport heavy cargo and equipment to otherwise difficult-to-reach parts of the world. It could also carry relief efforts to and from disaster zones.
Although the Airlander likely won’t be fast enough to support a full Iron Maiden tour, the company says Dickinson will be among a “host of celebrities” aboard the airship’s, ahem, maiden voyage in 2016. But the frontman’s wanderlust will likely be sated before then. After all, he spent part of 2008 flying a plane to rescue tourists who had been stranded in England and Lebanon and spent the rest of that year chartering his bandmates around the globe, a trip that served as the basis for the documentary Flight 666.
Dickinson told Rolling Stone the reason he decided to fly the plane was because, “The bean counters said it’s just not worth going to places like India and Costa. Being an aviation bloke, I thought to myself, ‘If you just chucked everything into one airplane, you could do an almost European-type itinerary, but on an inter-continental basis.'” He added, “When we finally got approval, I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, what have I done now?’ This is all going to be my fault if it all goes terribly wrong.”