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Hugo Eckener

Hugo Eckener(May 10, 1868 - August 14, 1954) was the old man of the of the Zeppelin airship company. Eckener was responsible for training most of Germany's airship pilots both during and after World War I.

After the War, Eckener replaced the aging Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin who had first pioneered the Zeppelin line of rigid airships.

For many years, Eckener was head of airship operations. Eckener always made safety his absolute priority. His safety orientation had results. Under Eckener's leadership, the Zeppelin company had a perfect safety record with no passenger ever sustaining a serious injury on any of the more than 1 million air miles that the rigid airships flew.

Eckener, a master of publicity as well as a master airship captain, made many record setting trips and established the Zeppelin as a symbol of German pride and engineering.

The popularity of the Zeppelin airships lead to Eckener's own popularity. During the early 1930s, Eckener was one of the most well known and respected figures in Germany. He was encouraged to run for the presidency to oppose the Nazis. Eckener declined, focusing on what he knew best, airships.

Nonetheless, Eckener and the Nazi's had a deep and mutual loathing. Eckener made no secret of his hatred of Hitler and the disasterous course he saw coming. Eventually the Nazis declared Eckener to be a "non-person" and his name was no longer allowed to appear in print.

With the rise of the Nazis came the nationalization of the Zeppelin operation and the subsequent replacement of Eckener with Nazi sympathers. Although they had all been trained by Eckener, the newly promoted Nazis did not always follow Eckener's safety rules. Many believe that the reduced focus on safety lead to the Hindenburg Disaster[?] of 1937.

After the destruction of the Hindenberg, the rigid airship fell from favor and Eckener receeded to the shadows. He survived WWII and died in 1954 at the age of 86.

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