Bruce Dickinson’s interest in aviation has long been known – he first caught the flying bug after taking up the activity recreationally in the 1990s. Dickinson had a career as a commercial pilot for Astraeus Airlines, leading to numerous ventures including captaining the group’s converted Boeing 757 during their world tours.
Then in 2012, he created his own aircraft maintenance and pilot training company called Cardiff Aviation, with the creation of 40 jobs. The business had expanded to around 70 employees in June 2013, with discussions ongoing regarding setting up an airline.
Now the multimillionaire rock star has extended his name and knowledge to Djibouti’s former flag carrier, after the airline went into liquidation in 2002, following years of mismanagement and overstaffing.
The plan is for Air Djibouti to take off later this year, with Cardiff Aviation sourcing the aircraft and providing assistance in running the operation.
Part of Dickinson’s aims in extending his business prowess here is to help raise awareness of that part of Africa. He said Djibouti was “an amazing country, but many people do not know about it”.
It comes amid efforts by the government to reposition the country as a low tax, international trade centre that could hope to rival Dubai. Djibouti has a population of around 872,000 compared to Dubai’s which is over two million.
The UAE city has become a hotspot for both business and tourism – recovering faster from the financial crisis than many other places and moving into a high growth mode thanks to its zero tax policy and economic free zones. Over ten million people visit Dubai annually.
Dickinson visited Djibouti as part of a trade trip organised by the British Embassy in Ethiopia and emphasised that the aviation sector was “crucial” to the country.
He added that it was like trying to think of “Dubai without Emirates”. Dickinson said “if they want Djibouti to become an international trade hub it needs a [thriving] national airline”.
“A national airline has an ambassadorial role wherever it flies from.”
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At the relaunched Air Djibouti, the senior director of strategic planning, Dawit Gebre-ab, said he hoped the airline would be able to strengthen enough to compete with Emirates, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways – saying they currently dominated international flights to and from the country.
“Turkish Airlines is already flying here everyday from Istanbul. That should be our market, they are our passengers,” he said.
The country has also been the recipient of recent attention from China, with firms spending $12bn to build at least six new ports in Djibouti, two new airports and a railway line to neighbouring Ethiopia.
The East African country has a useful location in the Horn of Africa – nestled at the entrance to the Red Sea, which serves as a busy shipping line.
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