Captain Bruce Dickinson, singer of heavy metal band Iron Maiden, has opened a heavy maintenance company for commercial aircraft on the grounds of the former Royal Air Force repair base in St Athan, near Cardiff today.

He expects to create "up to 1,000 new jobs in South Wales" over the next 18 month with the firm called Cardiff Aviation. This is a "cautious projection ... based on the level of interest and commitment from aircraft manufacturers and operators", Dickinson says.

The RAF's maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations, which supported the UK's Vickers VC10 tanker fleet, were wound down earlier this year.

Cardiff Aviation wants to provide heavy maintenance for Airbus and Boeing types within the 132,000ft² (12,000m²) hangar, which can accommodate aircraft up to the size of the Boeing 767.

The first customers will "likely be 737 operators", according to the company, and will be revealed later this month. But Dickinson adds that "several more major and independent airlines" have shown interest in employing the business.

Heavy maintenance is just part of the range of "total aviation service packages" the company will offer, including flight and technical training, certification and aircraft sourcing and leasing.

This will "hopefully include the development of new airline services for South Wales", according to Dickinson, who adds: "Cardiff Airport has tremendous potential to challenge the successful English regional airports."

The Iron Maiden frontman had previously worked as a pilot for West Sussex-based Astraeus Airlines, which entered administration in November 2011.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news