Bruce Dickinson formed a close alliance with the service in 2008, when he took the controls of an MoD-chartered 747 to bring its pilots home from Afghanistan to RAF Wittering.
Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden frontman, has been made an honorary Royal Air Force (RAF) Group Captain.
The heavy metal legend was enrolled as a member of the 601 (County of London) Squadron this week as a reward for his long-term support of the RAF.
Dickinson, 61 trained as a pilot after taking a break from the band in the 1990s. He rejoined in 1999, flying his bandmates in Ed Force One – an adapted Boeing 747.
The aircraft’s paint scheme features Iron Maiden’s logo and mascot, Eddie, painted on the tail.
According to Mirror, the rocker formed a close alliance with the service in 2008, when he took the controls of an MoD-chartered 747 to bring its pilots home from Afghanistan to RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire.
He got even closer when he made an emergency landing at RAF Halton, Bucks, in August 2015 – when his replica WW I Fokker triplane almost ran out of fuel.
With a professional airline licence, Dickinson has flown for British Airways and easyJet – and also once flew Liverpool FC to Naples for their European Cup match against Napoli in October 2010.
His love of flying is reflected in Iron Maiden’s hits. In 18-minute track Empire of the Clouds, he wrote: “Sailors of the sky, a hardened breed, loyal to the king, and an airship creed.”
The band has a number of military-inspired songs.
Their 1984 single Aces High pays homage to The Few in the Battle of Britain – the fliers of the RAF and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm who defeated the German Luftwaffe as they tried to take control of the skies above Britain in the summer of 1940.
Dickinson is also a keen fencer, once ranked No7 in the UK – and would now be eligible to represent the RAF in official competitions.
An RAF source said: “It’s absolutely fantastic that Bruce has been made an honorary Group Captain. He’s a keen aviator and loves the RAF. He’s a first class bloke. His two big interests outside of music are flying and fencing.”
The 601 (County of London) Squadron is a London-based group of the RAF Reserves, reactivated in 2017 Disbanded as a flying squadron in 1957, to help shape the RAF’s future with talent from industry and academia. Previous aircraft of the unit, that was famously known as ‘The Millionaires Squadron’ for its members’ lavish lifestyle in the 1930s, include the Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire and DeHavilland Vampire. 601 Squadron was the former unit of Roger Bushell, the Olympic skier and Great Escaper.
Other honorary Group Captains include TV’s Carol Vorderman, 59, and six-times Olympic champion cyclist Sir Chris Hoy, 43.
Photo credit: Crown Copyright