Bruce Dickinson dreams of Djibouti as St Athan struggles

Cardiff Aviation - Bruce Dickinson

Cardiff Aviation Chairman Bruce Dickinson has told an African logistics magazine that Air Djibouti will operate freight in the “near future” as he aims to deflect attention from his struggling St Athan business.

Air Djibouti began 737 operations with the help of Cardiff Aviation but those aircraft have since been sold to Aerotron Limited to cover Cardiff Aviation’s mounting debts which saw his plans for an “Airline in A Box” offering reach an abrupt end.

Speaking to Logistics Update Africa, Mr Dickinson not only claimed that Air Djibouti would soon be operating cargo services with a Boeing 737 Freighter but that it would commence long-haul operations to London and Paris early in 2018 using a Boeing 767 which will be delivered to Air Djibouti next month.

Sources we spoke to at Cardiff Aviation seemed surprised by this claim. The work needed to prepare the Boeing 767-216ER currently stored at St Athan (ex ZS-DJI) which is not only unregistered but also needs two new engines, would take a substantial amount of time.

Cardiff Aviation has been struggling financially following a series of high-profile contract failures with Easyjet & Monarch and the lack of business they have been able to win. It recently emerged that on several occasions this year staff we not being paid. The company said in June this year that they would be seeking redundancies. Many staff, however, chose to leave as the true state of the company continued to emerge.

Mr Dickinson blamed late payment by Air Djibouti for the initial problem with wages earlier this year.

Sources have confirmed to Aviation Wales that current Managing Director Martyn Anderson has been actively courting an investor from the middle east and together with other members of the management team could stage a buyout of Cardiff Aviation. The setting up of several aviation management companies suggest that this is already in progress.

In addition to unpaid wages, it emerged earlier this year that Cardiff Aviation has never paid any rent for the Twin Peaks hangar at MOD St Athan and as a result of talks in April, the Welsh Government has written off a substantial amount of money to clear the debt, some estimates suggest as much £10million.

It is currently unclear whether Cardiff Aviation has ever repaid any of the £5million of public money used to help the business start and create jobs in the region, a promise it has far from delivered on.

Cardiff Aviation was set up as a Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul operation in 2012 with the promise to create 1000 jobs within 18 months. 5 years on, the reality has been a fraction of that. easyJet and Monarch both cancelled contracts with the firm. Mr Dickinson claimed this was down to airfield availability but neither airline cited this as the main reason they chose not to use Cardiff Aviation.

Mr Dickinson also tried to blame the Welsh Government for his companies financial problems claiming he was “losing millions” because the ILS system was not approved for use at St Athan.

Following limited external work in 2016, none has passed through the site in 2017.

Speaking to Logistics Update Africa, Mr Dickinson said: “We are actually looking at purchasing a new aircraft. We are in the middle of looking at a 70-seat regional airliner of some description. We are fairly well advanced on that. There will be two of those and what they will enable us to do is to fly all the regional routes like Addis, Mogadishu.” 

Many people connected to the South Wales business have been surprised to hear Mr Dickinson openly talking about purchasing aircraft and ground equipment for Air Djibouti whilst they are left wondering whether they will actually get paid at the end of the month or even have a job. Casting doubt on Mr Dickinson’s credentials, one creditor we spoke to described Mr Dickinson as a “fantasist”.

Outside of aviation Mr Dickinson has had a highly successful career as frontman of rock band Iron Maiden as well as being a highly skilled fencer but his track record within aviation isn’t so strong. He, along with Mario Fulgoni, was involved with Astraeus Airlines where he was a pilot and also a director. Astraeus folded in 2011.

Mario Fulgoni has also been involved in both Cardiff Aviation and Air Djibouti.

In the week when Mr Dickinson launches his new book “What does this button do” it appears he may be looking for the button marked Help!

Cardiff Aviation has repeatedly declined to comment on the current situation and future at St Athan.

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About the Author

Nick Harding

Nick is the senior reporter and editor at Aviation Wales as well as working freelance elsewhere. He has his finger firmly on the pulse on Aviation, not only in Wales but worldwide. Nick has been asked to speak in a professional capacity on LBC, Heart and other broadcast networks.

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