Vereinigung Cockpit was founded as a professional association in 1968 by a group of pilots with Hans Dieter Gades. Until the year 2000, there was a collective bargaining association with the Deutsche Angestellten Gewerkschaft - DAG (German Salaried Employees’ Union). Therefore, the DAG negotiated the collective wage agreements for the pilots organised in the Vereinigung Cockpit. Prior to the DAG merging into the ver.di union, the Vereinigung Cockpit became independent in regard to Industrial Affiars and following that has also been operating as a trade union since the beginning of the year 2000.

(Little by little, you will receive a complete and detailed overview of the VC’s 40-year history here.)

Hans-Dieter Gades

The most defining person for the Vereinigung Cockpit was its first president, Hans-Dieter Gades. No one else even comes close to what the pilots’ association owes this man.

In 1968, when it became apparent that there was no trade union, which could represent cockpit crews with expert knowledge and vigour, when the interests of cockpit crews were grossly violated by absurd collective agreements and irrelevant decisions, he realised that only an independent professional association, organised and supported by those directly affected, would be able to be make the pilots, flight engineers and navigators be sufficiently heard in the area of professional and collective bargaining policies.

He implemented this realisation with a small group of like-minded people, so that the Vereinigung Cockpit could be founded on March 15, 1969. Hans-Dieter Gades was appointed it’s first president. After a brief intermission, two further terms of office followed. During this time, disrupted by common setbacks, the Vereinigung Cockpit grew to what it is today: the association of cockpit crew members recognised nationally and internationally by all bodies associated with aviation.

Hans-Dieter Gades was born on May 29, 1938 in Celle and went to school there until 1957, when he completed his general qualification for university entrance. Until going to aviation school, he worked as a draughtsman in an engineering office before beginning his training at the Deutsche Lufthansa on October 1, 1957 with the 8th junior pilot training course in Bremen. As of 1960 he worked as co-pilot on the models Lockheed “Super Constellation”, Vickers Viscount, Boeing 727 and as of 1966 as captain on Viscount, Boeing 737, 707 and Douglas DC10.

Immediately after enroling in aviation school, he demonstrated his enormous social dedication, his interest in his fellow men and his willingness to stand up for others. If there were any problems in the 8th training course, Dieter was always ready to listen, knew of a solution and was willing to speak up for it. Therefore, it was not really surprising that he also dedicated himself to representing employees later on, that he became the chairman of the joint representation of the cockpit crews there, member of the bargaining committee and co-founder of the Vereinigung Cockpit. Soon, he no longer had a private life: any meeting, assembly, negotiation, which revolved around the interests of the flight crew, which did not include him was unimaginable.

The reputation he had not only with friends but also with representatives of the opposition, ultimately benefited the Vereinigung Cockpit as well. He was the dominant figure on the employee side in air traffic operations at the Deutsche Lufthansa in the 1970s.

And suddenly, he was gone. We received the news of his sudden passing at the beginning of January 1978. The reaction was shock and perplexity wherever this news reached us in the world. His companion at the time and VC founder Dr. Werner Joost summarised the feelings at that time in an obituary:

“Hans-Dieter Gades has passed; this news reached us from the distant country he had just flown his DC 10 to, just as the New Year had begun. And no one was able to comprehend these news, no one wanted to believe what he had just heard. Maybe, just maybe it was a mistake, a mix-up? No, it was not a mistake, it was the irrevocable truth: his heart simply stopped beating. We will have to get used to this fact.

39 years old, flight captain, President of the Vereinigung Cockpit e.V., chairman of the joint representation of the cockpit crews at the Deutsche Lufthansa. His profession and his dedication to his colleagues and the company, for which he flew, his commitment to all matters regarding aviation, above all safety, all these things are well known and well-respected way beyond the borders of Germany. However, this does not reveal much about him as a person or about his life. Hans-Dieter Gades could not be squeezed into any pattern predetermined by our society in terms of role and status.

He knew so many people all around the world and everyone and anyone, who had anything to do with flying, knew him. Nevertheless, he was a loner. Two factors defined him as one: His extraordinary talents and his idealistic, so very unconventional attitude towards life. He was an out-of-time person.

Gades also had flaws, just like anyone else, however, the most impressive thing about his personality was the self-critical candour with which he acknowledged his flaws and the deep earnest and diligence he asserted in attempting to deal with them.

Everything he did, he did for others or for the community. He used his strength, to help those, who were weaker. He was always on the side of those, who suffered injustice. His personal, material needs were irrelevant, he did not care about material values.

He subjected everything he did to different standards than those, which were generally common. For him, everything he did had to result in bringing justice and humanity just a little bit further. Therefore, his actions consisted of the utmost consistency, even in places where he was up against power structures; this cost him quite some amount of his strength. That is why many a critic or envier disrespectfully called him a dreamer, which secretly upset him but without him letting on about it.

Everything he did, he did regardless of himself, his health or his safety. If necessary, he could mobilise mental and physical reserves of strength, so that anyone who ever experienced him doing so could only be amazed and ask: How does he do that?

Everything he did, he did courageously and fearlessly. There were times in which they burdened him with contention. This weighed down on him heavily because he hated disputes as a counterproductive way of arguing, for he was a democrat through and through. For him, democracy was a way of life, even in places where he was the boss. For him, being the commander meant being the first among equals, who merely had greater duties and more responsibility to bear by virtue of his office. He took the welfare of his crew very seriously and did not see it limited by regulations or time schedules, for him, it was a perpetual duty. Power made little impression on him, least of all threats. For him, courage was a natural lifestyle. He encountered dissidents face-to-face; convenience was never the path he chose in this regard.

He subjected everything he did to a strict regiment because he thought time was much too precious to waste with meaningless insults or idle talk; as if he had forebode that his time actually was so limited. He respected the Anglo-Saxon style in meetings and discussions, courtesy and fairness; for him, dealing with others also had an aesthetic side.

Again and again I hesitate, for I am uncertain if my words can truly do justice to such an extraordinary life.

Once someone asked me: Are you actually real friends? However, the common categories of human coexistence were also insufficient, to answer this question correctly. One thing is certain, we were companions, bound to the same goal; and it was great knowing he was by your side when the wind was blowing hard against us.

One of our colleagues once said it differently. You can come to Gades no matter what happened; you are sure to get a bite to eat and a place to rest at any time of day or night. However, he expected the exact same behaviour from everyone, who belonged to his circle of life because for him, it was the natural thing to do. Some may have perceived this as inconvenient.

His life was unusually intense. That is the only way it can apply to a 40-year-old, what others can only say in retrospect towards the end of their lives: This was a full life!

All of us, who are connected to flying in one way or another, remain in his debt. I believe I know the best way we can give thanks to Hans-Dieter Gades: by pushing our complacency and the importance we attach to ourselves back a notch, to be able to feel more obligated to the community than we did in the past.”