When Iron Maiden hit the road early last year they wanted to hit the four corners of the earth within a few weeks of each other. “The bean counters said it’s just not worth going to places like India and Costa Rica,” says Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson. “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 an on inter-continental basis.’ ” That’s precisely what they did, with accomplished pilot Dickinson personally flying the specially modified 757. “When we finally got approval I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, what have I done now?’ ” says Dickinson. “This is all going to be my fault if it all goes terribly wrong.”
The tour — which featured a set composed almost entirely of their 1980s classics — was a stunning success. The whole crazy trip was filmed for the new documentary Flight 666, which was released on DVD earlier this month. “Two-thirds of the film is not about us,” says Dickinson. “It’s about the fans and the crew — which is the way it should be. The first time I saw it was I just blown away.” Fellow metal icons Ronnie James Dio and Lars Ulrich have cameos in the film.
What’s next for Maiden? “At the moment we’re in daydreaming mode,” says Dickinson. “We’re trying to get ideas and things, but towards the end of the year we’re going to get together to plan our new record. We haven’t made any tour plans for next tour. That’s at least a year and a bit away.” The group will probably have a more balanced set list on the next tour. “My gut feeling is that we’ll play selected songs from the new album and a mixture of stuff from several albums we haven’t picked from yet — like Brave New World and some of the other more recent albums.”
In the meantime, Dickinson is spending much of his time in the air as a pilot for Astraeus ailines in the U.K. “The legal maximum for a pilot is about 900 hours in the air,” he says. “I do between six and seven hundred. I’ve flown the English football team, members of the royal family, soldiers, British Airway passengers.” Do the passengers freak out if they learn their plane is being flown by heavy metal royalty? “Not really,” he says. “Most people aren’t interested anyway.” Could he have pulled a Captain Sully and landed that plan in the Hudson after complete engine failure? “I think every pilot would like to think so,” he says. “He did an extraordinary job. He had a bit of luck on his side since there was very little wind and the water surface was smooth, but he still did an amazing job.”