Eckener, Hugo, 1868–1954, German airship designer and pilot, Ph.D. Univ. of Leipzig, 1892. As a journalist he covered early flights of Zeppelin's first rigid airships. He joined (1908) Zeppelin's company as a publicist and in 1911 commanded the LZ 8, which crashed on its first flight. He then directed the construction of several airships for the German navy and trained airship pilots during World War I. After the war he succeeded von Zeppelin as head of the company and commanded the Graf Zeppelin on its flight around the world (1929) and on a polar exploration (1931); he also sought to develop commercial trans-Atlantic airship travel. An early opponent of the Nazis, he was marginalized under Hitler.
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