Jersey Reflections: Aeroplane Idea Takes Off

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George Cove’s residency in Bridgeton coincided with Henry Hettinger’s test flights for his airplane engine.

It’s not known exactly when George H. Cove arrived in Bridgeton and took a job with a machine shop, the Acme Gas Fixture Company. He seems to have maintained a rather low profile at first, but that would soon change once his preferred occupation as an inventor was picked up by the local press. 

According to various reports, Cove either hailed from Long Island or Canada, but his residency in Bridgeton coincided with manufacturer Henry Hettinger’s test flights for the new airplane engine he had developed at the height of the aviation craze that had caught the attention of the country. Hettinger’s work on a biplane had been highly publicized throughout Cumberland County in 1910 and his test runs were witnessed by more than a few residents. 

So, it’s rather interesting that Cove told the Bridgeton Evening News in October of that year that he, too, was working on a biplane the paper described as “30 feet long, 5 feet wide and six feet high” and that he was planning on fitting it with a 60-horsepower engine. The aircraft was being built in the former Laurel Street home of the Riley Brothers Garage, an automobile dealership and repair shop. 

Bill Chestnut’s well-researched 1994 South Jersey Magazine article “The Incredible Inventor George H. Cove and his Balanced Biplane,” identifies that Cove partnered with Rev. DeWitt C. Cobb and J. Ellsworth Long, Esq., both Bridgetonians, in the creation of the Cove Balanced-Aeroplane Company, a business that the January 1911 issue of Aeronautics magazine explained “is to manufacture flying machines, one of which is now nearing completion.” 

The company was incorporated, according to Chestnut, on November 18, 1910. The following month, Industrial World magazine reported that the Cove Balanced-Aeroplane Company had a capital stock of $30,000. What is most curious is the mention of an unnamed financial backer for the business, “a wealthy manufacturer of Rochester, N.Y.,” referenced in a Bridgeton Evening News article cited by Chestnut. A later report by another newspaper had this individual living in Buffalo. 

The local press credited Cove with “considerable experience” in the manufacture of an airplane, yet his credentials are not provided. Chestnut, however, acknowledges the inventor’s business savvy, particularly in Cove’s selection of DeWitt and Long as partners, both respected community members.

“Rev. Cobb was the pastor of the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church on Fayette Street, while Long was an attorney with offices on North Laurel Street. It is unclear how Cove came to be acquainted with the two Bridgeton natives, but…being associated with a church pastor imparted to Cove an air of morality, while having a lawyer as a partner provided a degree of credibility among local legal and law enforcement authorities,” Chestnut writes.

Cove’s company and biplane started to garner more attention from the public once it was revealed what made it unique. In early 1911, Aeronautics magazine provided the specifics of the aircraft: “George H. Cove of Bridgeton, NJ has a good-looking biplane, with novel stability features, or ‘balancing wing tips.’ When one of these is opened out the other closes up, and vice versa, The part of the tip next to the main plane is braced and does not move. The outer part is hinged and worked either by the seat or by a lever. Opening the wing on one side of the machine increases the supporting surface that side. Patents are now pending. The power plant consists of an Elbridge 40-60 motor, twin El Arco radiators and Gibson propeller.”

The Bridgeton newspaper The Daily Pioneer, according to Chestnut, called the biplane’s new feature “an automatic stabilizer,” which would “revolutionize” flight if it tested successfully. The newspaper revealed that “small models of the aeroplane have been constructed, which, when turned upside down, will right themselves and glide through the air, gently descending in an upright position and alight on the earth without any jolt.” 

The Daily Pioneer, anticipating the biplane’s completion and subsequent test flights in the area, commented that its success “will be a great advertisement for the city” and allow for more aircraft that “may, eventually, result in factories being erected for their manufacture.” Unfortunately, such hopes were premature.

Read: Jersey Reflections: Ten Years of Recording

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