Balloons had been used for observation during
the American Civil War and in several late 19th-century European
conflicts. The airplane offered a natural extension of these
reconnaissance capabilities. During the 20th century, the
military proved to be the largest market for aeronautical
World War I was the first great impetus to manufacture
aircraft, and the later development of commercial cargo
and passenger air transport provided the other principal
customer for aircraft builders. The aerospace industry ultimately
became a pillar of the world economy.
The Wright Company produced a variety of designs until
Orville sold the firm and retired from aviation in 1915,
three years after Wilbur’s premature death.