Backstage on Ed Force One
We’ve said goodbye to Ed Force One, the flying behemoth that had become an iconic aircraft, drawing crowds everywhere it went, and with it, we put to bed the biggest and most exciting project we’ve ever had the privilege of working on.
It all started with a phone call from Air Atlanta, an Icelandic airline that had been approached by Iron Maiden to arrange the Boeing 747 that became internationally famed as Ed Force One. Air Atlanta felt that we had the resources and expertise to undertake this immensely complicated and packed schedule. And, when this latest incarnation of Ed Force One first touched down in Cardiff, covered in a special livery featuring ‘Eddie’ their iconic mascot, snarling from the tail, we knew we were in for the ride of our lives. With 50 shows, 22 tonnes of cargo and 400 suppliers and handlers, it was a beast of a job, and one we have enjoyed (practically) every moment of.
Since taking off on the first leg of The Book of Souls World Tour, we’ve had at least two members of ACS staff on board, every flight. The heralds of Ed Force One, they have been 10 steps ahead every step of the way, dealing with flight permissions, landing and take-off slots, fuelling, catering, baggage handling, VIP services and more. But it’s not just those in the sky that have been involved in the project, there has also been over 15 members of ACS head office staff involved, as well as staff from all the offices visited featured on the tour route, chipping in to ensure it ran as smoothly as possible. For The Trooper on board from ACS, no challenge was too big, or too small. Whether it was decanting liquids and unpacking sandwiches to get them through security, gaining access to the aircraft to collect wayward football kits or arranging the logistics of an Air to Air photoshoot, nothing could make the ACS staff, Run to the Hills.
There were a few challenges along the way, with extra security at select airports, VIP transfers and secret routes into and out of airports all to be arranged, but it was more than made up for with water cannon salutes, fire trucks blaring Iron Maiden songs and fans crowding around the perimeter fences. The biggest challenge was probably the amount of interest the aircraft generated, with, everyone from the crew of Air Force One in Chicago, to the crew aboard Antonov An-225 Mriya, the largest aircraft in the world, in Perth, all wanting a tour of the aircraft. In fact, Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of Iron Maiden and the main pilot of Ed Force One for the duration of the tour, even took it to Boeing HQ at Paine Field to help them celebrate their 100th Anniversary and take a lucky few for an onboard tour. And more recently in Munich, Chancellor Merkel of Germany and President Hollande of France could not resist parking their (much smaller!) jets next to the beast that is Ed Force One.
However, it was not all relatively smooth sailing, as in Santiago di Chile, when the plane had been closed up and everyone had settled in to their hotels for the night, airport workers moving the aircraft were involved in an incident involving a loose steering pin and an airport tug, which saw damage occur to two engines and the undercarriage as well as injury to two workers present. Suddenly Ed Force One was grounded, but, as is the way, the show must go on, one way or another. Within hours, after collaboration with other suppliers including Iron Maiden’s management, Air Atlanta and Rock-It Cargo, alternative charters had been found to take the band to the next show in Argentina, a charter and some scheduled seats were found for Iron Maiden’s ‘Killer Krew’. The 20 plus tons of stage equipment and production were trucked over a difficult pass through the Andes Mountains over the border into Cordoba and then alternative transport had to be rapidly arranged for both the Argentine and Brazilian shows. Back with Ed Force One, two massive new engines, engineers, parts, cowlings and tools were flown in from Europe, and within 10 days and after a magnificent job by said engineers, Ed Force One was once again ready to command the skies.
Having covered six continents, 21 countries and flying almost 100,000 kilometres, our Ed Force One has bowed out, but its legacy will live on, through the collective memories of those on board, those crowding the fences, those million or so fans at the 50 shows and everyone who has had the pleasure of following its progress around the world. We are ACS, and this has been a journey that has whizzed by the Speed of Light, into The Great Unknown, with some of the greatest rockers this world has ever seen. At times it’s felt a fine line between Death Or Glory, but it’s been a journey we’ll never forget.
Thank you Iron Maiden, for letting us be a part of The Book of Souls World Tour 2016.