That’s what happened to W.H. “Pete” Hill on July 13, 1939. Hill, with inspector Robert Gardner in the back seat of a new open biplane, was attempting a spiral landing at the old Boise Airport where BSU is now located. A spiral or corkscrew landing is often performed when a pilot is hoping to avoid anti-aircraft fire coming into an airport. It became SOP, for instance, when landing at the Baghdad International after a cargo plane was struck by a surface-to-air missile a few years ago.
Why was Hill performing this particular type of landing? News accounts don’t say. They do say that he essentially ran out of sky toward the end, coming in too low over one of the buildings on Broadway near the airport. Hill gunned the plane to get some altitude, but the landing gear hit the top of the front wall of the Broadway Commission building, sheared off an airport warning light, somersaulted into a row of mailboxes, and landed upside down in the street.
Both men had some injuries, Hill’s the worst. He had a fractured pelvis and a hurt shoulder. The inspector had a broken toe along with scrapes and bruises.
Whether or not the crash was an early blight on Hill’s record as the state director of aeronautics is open to speculation. He lasted in the position a couple of years.