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Iron Maiden Frontman Flyin' High

One of the greatest things about being a rock star is never having to work another day in your life, right?

So why, you might ask, would a rocker as financially secure as Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson -- the singer of a band that is still selling out Madison Square Garden some 20 years down the line -- want to go out and work a J-O-B?

Well, because it's a job that parallels his love for singing and performing.

When he's not on the road or in the studio with Maiden, Dickinson spends a good chunk of his year piloting 150-seat Boeing 737s for Astraeus Airlines in London.

A first officer for Astraeus and a pilot for some 11 years, Dickinson logged between 600 and 700 hours in the air for the company last year, regularly jetting back and forth from London to such locales as Egypt, Iceland and the former Soviet Union.

During Maiden's recent tours, he's even flown himself and several band members from gig to gig in a Cessna 421 Golden Eagle, a seven-seat propeller plane.

Dickinson, whose first commercial job was with British World (an independent airline that folded after Sept. 11, 2001), equates discovering his love for flying to finding another woman. When he's flying, his wife often remarks, " 'Oh, he's off sleeping with the tin bitch again,"' he relays with a laugh.

He adds that he's constantly humbled by flying.

"When you're up at 41,000 feet at night, flying in the middle of Europe and you look down and you can see all these lights, and then you look up and you see more stars than you've ever seen before in your life, it's just amazing," he says. "You see the weather, you see thunder storms from hundreds of miles away. I get to see the best light show in the world."

Becoming a commercial airline pilot was the fulfillment of a childhood dream for the metal icon.

As a child, Dickinson was often taken to air shows by a relative who had served as an electrician on World War II bombers, and his uncle served in England's Royal Air Force.

"I toyed with the idea of joining the air cadets at school," he says. "But I thought, 'Ah, they'd never let me fly,' because I was terrible at math and physics. 'Too stupid; they wouldn't be interested."'

His interest picked up in the mid-'80s, after Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain got his pilot's license.

While Dickinson tagged along on a few of McBrain's flights, it wasn't until 1992, when he was on vacation with his family, that he spotted a sign at a Florida airport advertising flying lessons for $35, that things changed.

He was sold as soon as the bird took flight. Dickinson then set out collecting the proper licenses for U.S. and European flights.

"In '93, when I left Iron Maiden for six years and embarked on a solo career, it did strike me that if the solo career didn't work out, I was going to be jobless," he says. "So I decided that I would go and do the airline pilot exams in Europe."

Although the band is going strong -- its new album, "Dance of Death" (Columbia), arrives Sept. 9 -- the singer foresees a time when he'll be flying exclusively.

"When it gets to when Iron Maiden stops -- which it will do eventually -- I'm gonna have to do something until I'm 65," he muses.


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