Orville and Wilbur were wary of competitors copying their designs while patents pended and did not fly between late 1905 and the spring of 1908. Orville returned to the air that spring to conduct airplane trials for the U.S. Army, while Wilbur ventured to France to conduct trials for potential French investors. The Wrights signed a contract with the U.S. Army stating that they would provide an airplane capable of flying for one hour at a speed of forty miles per hour (64 km/h) for $25,000 without performance incentives. While the trials at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, were generally successful, one flight ended abruptly when Orville’s plane crashed. The accident seriously injured Orville and killed his passenger, Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge. Orville’s injuries, which included a broken thigh and broken pelvis, gave him pain for the remainder of his life. He and sister Katharine joined Wilbur in France after his injuries healed.
In 1909, the Wrights and several prominent industrialists created the Wright Company to market Wright airplanes. Wilbur became the company’s first president, with Orville as one of two vice-presidents (Andrew Freedman being the other). Orville became president of the Wright Company upon Wilbur’s death of typhoid fever in 1912. Orville also served as executor of his brother’s estate.
In the years after Wilbur’s death, Orville became an elder statesman among aviators. He, Katharine, and Milton moved into Hawthorn Hill, a mansion in the Dayton suburb of Oakwood, in 1914. Orville sold his interests in the Wright Company in 1915, remaining with it for a year as a consulting engineer. He also built a laboratory on Broadway in west Dayton, close to the last site of the Wrights’ cycle shop and the family’s former home at 7 Hawthorne Street. Orville worked on a variety of projects at this laboratory, designing devices to ease tasks around Hawthorn Hill. He also served on several aviation commissions and boards, including that of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, the predecessor agency of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Orville, who never married, died in Dayton of a heart attack on January 30, 1948 and is buried at Woodland Cemetery.