- Iron Maiden’s iconic ‘Ed Force One’ planes, a Boeing 747 and a Boeing 757, were used for their world tours and piloted by lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson.
- The Boeing 747, known by the registration TF-AAK, is now owned by Air Atlanta Icelandic and currently stored in the UK, set to be scrapped.
- The first ‘Ed Force One’ Boeing 757, registered as G-OJIB, is now employed by FedEx Express, while the second one, registered as G-STRX, was scrapped in 2011 after being used by various operators.
Iron Maiden is one of heavy metal’s most recognizable bands across the world. They have achieved superstar status over the years with music hits such as Run to the Hills, The Trooper, Fear of the Dark, Hallowed be Thy Name and many more. In the avgeek world, they are also known for having two unique stories. First, their lead vocalist, Bruce Dickinson, holds an airline transport pilot’s license. Second, Iron Maiden used a Boeing 747-400 and a Boeing 757 for three tours. These planes are better known as the ‘Ed Force One.’
The ‘Ed Force One’
Perhaps the first question is, why is it called Ed? That is related to Eddie the Head, Iron Maiden’s mascot, which is a perennial fixture of the group’s artwork, appearing on all of their album covers.
Throughout the years, the ‘Ed Force One’ has been everything a celebrity endorsement should be. Beautifully liveried and piloted by Bruce Dickinson himself, the aircraft registration TF-AAK made star-studded appearances all over the world.
The Queen of the Skies has a cult-level fan following, so when a band with similar brand status hooked up with its very own Boeing 747, it was a match made in heaven. Nicknamed ‘Ed Force One,’ TF-AAK took the band around the globe on the ‘Book Of Souls’ world tour, frequently piloted by legendary frontman Bruce Dickinson himself.
Photo: Edu Perez/Shutterstock.
Of course, it wasn’t the first plane Iron Maiden had at its disposal. From 2008 to 2009, a Boeing 757 with tail number G-OJIB took the band on tour for the Somewhere Back In Time World Tour. And in 2011, G-STRX was liveried up in The Final Frontier World Tour to become the newest Ed Force One.
Despite the band’s love for the smaller Boeings, for Dickinson, nothing could compare to the Queen of the Skies. Speaking to Blabbermouth in 2016, he said the 757 was just not big enough anymore. Considering the band’s needs, he explained:
“The  is just not big enough for what we’ve got in mind in terms of a show. So what we’ve got onboard at the moment is the stage show … Everything we need will be on the airplane, and all the technicians and baggage and everything else. We’re going all around the world [from] Perth, Australia to Cape Town, Shanghai to New Zealand. We’re really going ’round the planet.”
What has happened to the ‘Ed Force One’ ever since?
Iron Maiden employed the Boeing 757s and then the 747 only for select tours. Since then, the planes have gone to other endeavors. At the moment of the writing (September 2023), it is unknown if Iron Maiden will ever employ again the ‘Ed Force One’ for future tours.
According to data from ch-aviation, the 747 registration TF-AAK is a 20.54-year-old aircraft owned by Air Atlanta Icelandic. It is currently stored at Kemble Cotswold (GBA) in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the plane is set to be scrapped, putting an end to its history.
Photo: Sergey Kohl/Shutterstock.
The 747 was first delivered to Air France in 2003. The French company operated it until 2015 with the registration number F-GITH. Then it went to Air Atlanta Icelandic, who wet-leased it to Iron Maiden but also operated other flights. For instance, in 2016, it flew 350 Icelandic football fans to Marseille, France, for the country’s Euro 2016 fixture against Hungary.
After its stint with Iron Maiden, Air Atlanta Icelandic leased the aircraft to Saudi Arabian Airlines. When it joined the fleet, TF-AAK saw regular service with the airline, flying between Jeddah and several key destinations, including Surabaya, Addis Ababa, and Dhaka. Sadly, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic forced Saudia to park the jet up in March 2020. This saw it join two of its counterparts in storage in Jeddah.
The aircraft last operated in 2022. Last year, the 747 could be seen flying often between New York, Maastricht, and Dubai, according to data from FlightRadar24.com.
And the 757s?
Of the three ‘Ed Force Ones,’ only the first one continues to operate nowadays. This plane, registration G-OJIB when it flew with Iron Maiden, is currently employed by FedEx Express, with a registration number N938FD. It is a 34.52-year-old aircraft first delivered in 1989 to Air 2000. For years, it alternated flying for Air 2000 and Canada 3000 Airlines before going to Skyservice Airlines and then First Choice Airways in 2004. Then Astraeus acquired it in 2006 and had it until its bankruptcy when it went to FedEx Express.
Photo: Patrick Poendl/Shutterstock.
If you’re wondering what happened to the second ‘Ed Force One,’ the Boeing 757 registration number G-STRX, we have some bad news for you.
The plane was scrapped in 2011 after amassing over 55,000 flight hours flying for four different operators. Canada 3000 Airlines operated it between 1992 and 20001. Then National Airlines had it in 2002, before going to Omni Air International between 2003 and 2008. Finally, Astraeus flew it between 2008 and 2011. When the company went bankrupt, the aircraft went down with it.
Other rock bands with their own planes
One of Iron Maiden’s songs has the following verse: Fly on your way, like an eagle / Fly as high as the sun / On your way, like an eagle / Fly and touch the sun. This verse is aptly appropriate for the airline’s ‘Ed Force One,’ which indeed flew like an eagle all over the world. Yeah, I know the song’s name is Flight of Icarus, and the ‘Ed Force One’ didn’t have an ending like Icarus’ (fortunately), but the verse remains appropriate.
Nowadays, many musicians own their own aircraft. However, most of these planes are private jets, with only a handful of artists owning true commercial jetliners. Perhaps one of the most known planes to be used by touring musical artists was The Starship, a Boeing 720 that carried Led Zeppelin, the Allman Brothers Band, The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, and Alice Cooper in the 1970s. That’s quite a line-up. The Rolling Stones also had a Boeing 737.
Even before that, Elvis Presley owned a Convair 880, which was purchased from Delta Air Lines.
Did you ever see any of Iron Maiden’s ‘Ed Force Ones’? Would you like to see the airline operate a new ‘Ed Force One’ in the future? Let us know in the comments below.