ADDIS ABABA: Air Djibouti’s first passenger flight in 14 years landed in the small Horn of Africa nation Thursday with Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson at the controls after piloting it from Britain.
One of Africa’s oldest airlines, the carrier shut down all operations in 2002 but partially relaunched in August 2015 with a cargo service as the continent’s aviation industry becomes increasingly competitive.
Dickinson, frontman of the heavy metal band whose hits include “The Number of the Beast,” “Run for the Hills” and “Aces High,” is also a trained pilot and owns the firm which will manage the airline.
He flew the plane into Djibouti from Cardiff, Wales.
Aboubaker Omar Hadi, president of Djibouti’s port authority and free zones, said “Djibouti confirms its position as a business and transport hub located on the (world’s) second most important maritime route.”
“Air Djibouti will allow the world to discover that Djibouti has incredible potential,” Omar Hadi added at a ceremony in Djibouti once the plane had landed.
Air Djibouti will initially serve regional destinations including Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and Nairobi in Kenya, as well as nearby Middle Eastern destinations such as Dubai and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Route expansion to Asia and Europe will begin in 2017 with a target of 200,000 passengers per year.
President Ismail Omar Guelleh also attended the ceremony on the tarmac at Djibouti airport, while journalists and dignitaries disembarked the Boeing 737 piloted by Dickinson.
The airline is expected to take receipt of three new aircraft by the end of the year.
Air Djibouti was founded in 1963. The new company remains a state-owned entity but management was taken on by Cardiff Aviation, Dickinson’s company.
The east African state of 870,000 people is heavily involved in large-scale infrastructure projects with Chinese financing, including two new airports, six new ports and a train line connecting Djibouti with Addis Ababa.