The band will hit all five continents for 35-date The Book Of Souls trek, and DICkinson will play singer and flight commander at the controls of the group's brand new 'Ed Force One', a Boeing 747-400.

The Run to the Hills singer is currently in training for his license to fly the four-engine jet on the 55,000 mile jaunt, which will begin in America in February (16).

He says, "The greatest benefit of travelling in a 747 is that because of its colossal size and freight capacity, we can carry our stage production and all our stage equipment and desks in the cargo hold without having to make any of the immense structural modifications needed to do this on the previous 757.

"Although in reality we cannot carry much more gear, the savings in complexity, time and cost make using the 747 even more practical. All we will need to do is paint it and move a few seats around, with the added advantage that there is much more room for band and crew. Furthermore, it is marginally faster... and the range of around 13,000km is much greater, which means we will not have to make the refuelling stops we needed to with the 757."

He adds, "I'm currently doing my training to qualify as a pilot and captain on a Boeing 747. I'm doing this at Cardiff Aviation, my aircraft maintenance facility in Wales, where we recently took possession of a rather splendid 747 simulator which I can't wait to get practising on."