This is the story of how I met Bruce Dickinson. He gave me a flying lesson.
If you're not familiar with his work, he's the lead singer of Iron Maiden, a songwriter, airline pilot, fencer, broadcaster, author, screenwriter, actor and former marketing director. He's been busy.
I remember when I was first introduced to Iron Maiden. It was entirely thanks to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. This game (one of my favourite titles of all time) included Iron Maiden's song "2 Minutes to Midnight" in an in-game radio station, VRock. It's safe to say that this game moulded me into who I am today - 2 Minutes to Midnight was stuck in my head the entire time I was playing GTA, as well as most of the time I wasn't. It just so happened that I was humming the chorus one day at school when an unknown kid said "Hey, man, you're an Iron Maiden fan? Awesome!" to me. He'd later become one of my best friends.
I was never brought up around music. At the time this happened, almost ten years ago, I didn't know what an album was. My only introduction to music was Top of the Pops on television combined with the rare Now That's What I Call Music CD I'd receive as a present. I understood what singles were, but I didn't realise that a bunch of individual songs combined on one record was called an album. I had so much to learn.
Luckily, this unknown kid turned out to be Victor. He taught me what I needed to know about music. And so much more, besides. Thank you. From that day onwards, Iron Maiden have been my number one band. I've never looked back.
Aeronautical engineering fascinates me. Always has. I studied maths, physics, product design, ICT and economics during my A-Levels. Then I studied product design at university. I've wanted a private pilot's license(PPL) for as long as I can remember. As much fun as it's possible to have with remote control cars and planes (hell, even real cars), nothing quite compares to soaring through the air in a real plane. I love it.
Bruce loves it, too. That's why he obtained a PPL in the 1990s, shortly followed by a commercial flying license. When the company he flew for (whilst still a frontman for Iron Maiden, mind you) commercially closed down last year, he started offering a limited number of flying lessons in a $10,000,000 Boeing 737 flight simulator. Needless to say, I was one of the first to know.
I booked a lesson with my hero.
I met Bruce Dickinson. We shook hands. We taxied down the runway. Then we took off.
Even though my lesson was scheduled to last one hour, we almost flew in the simulator for twice as long. I had multiple attempts landing the plane without any autopilot assistance. My landings were a little bumpy, but I managed. It was not easy. Bruce landed them perfectly, with one hand on the controls – whilst talking to me. Every time.
We talked about trains, planes, technology – even radar systems and engineering. Music was never brought up. Today was about flying, not singing. We did a flyby of London city whilst discussing how primitive some of the technology in aerospace still is, even today, agreeing that sometimes it doesn't matter how fancy something is so long as it works. The man is incredibly intelligent.
I'm still working towards my own PPL. Maybe one day I'll be in a position to give lessons to an inspired fan of airplanes – just like I was given this incredible experience. Thank you, Bruce.