Erin Heringer’s life has been nothing short of exhilarating. As a member of the Blain family, which owns and operates Billings Flying Service here, Erin’s journey has been woven into the very fabric of aviation. From childhood lessons in flying to witnessing the evolution of their family business, Erin’s story is one of resilience, community pride, and a deep connection to the great outdoors.
A Childhood in the Skies
Erin had an extraordinary childhood. Born into a family deeply rooted in aviation, she had the privilege of experiencing the thrill of flying helicopters and airplanes from a young age. “I took flying lessons when I was 12, and did my first solo flight when I was 16,” she remembers.
Billings Flying Service plays a pivotal role in supporting firefighting efforts and transporting personnel and parts to the front lines of forest fires. Their biggest customer is the U.S. Forest Service, which relies on their services to increase responsiveness and efficiently manage critical situations.
Erin hopes to pass on the love of flight to her children, believing it builds tremendous confidence. In her extended family, aviation runs deep, with 11 out of 12 cousins holding pilot licenses. Erin is proud of her family’s commitment to aviation, a tradition that has been passed down through the generations.
Resilience in Adversity
When tragedy struck the Blain family in 2013 with the loss of Erin’s brother AJ, the entire family was devastated. However, they rallied together, and Erin’s family doubled down on their commitment to the business, leading to the acquisition of Chinook helicopters.
Adversity, Erin notes, has been a catalyst for growth and improvement. “There are always challenges in business, and in the aviation world,” she says. “Conflict, loss, challenges: my family has embraced the adversity and grown from it. It has made us a better company, a better family, and better as people.”
It is their resilience in the face of adversity that Erin appreciates most. “I’m proud of all my family,” Erin reflects.
Aerial Perspective of Billings
“I think we live in the best state in the country, and Billings is the best city in the state,” Erin says. This status is due to Billings’ affordability, access to the outdoors, and abundant amenities. Erin appreciates the opportunities it provides for her children to enjoy the outdoors through activities like hunting, fishing, skiing, rafting, and hiking.
Alignment with Billings TrailNet
Erin and her family’s values align seamlessly with Billings TrailNet’s mission to create a complete, community-wide trail system.
“One of our core values at Billings Flying Service is that we are a great place to work,” she explains. “We offer a whole person view. We have great stories of people coming out here and getting started and working their way up.”
The company recognizes the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle and the role trails play in achieving this. “We want it to be a place where its less about the bottom line and more about our people and their quality of life,” says Erin.
In addition to trails, Erin is enthusiastic about mobilizing her generation to support initiatives like the upcoming bond for Parks, Trails and Recreation, which provides an opportunity to make Billings an even better place to live and work. “My peer group is open. We’re in the prime of our lives. We have kids, and we’re eager to utilize amenities that draw people to Billings,” Erin explains. “I appreciate a recreation center that can host statewide tournaments. My kids are in swimming and other sports. While I appreciate wanting to be fiscally responsible with Taxpayer dollars, I see this bond bringing tremendous economic and social opportunity to our community, and I hope our community can be forward thinking,” she says. “I’m hoping Billings passes it.”
“Let’s Make Billings a Blue Zone!”
Erin appreciates the concept of growing older while maintaining good physical, mental, and social well-being. She notes that the Netflix series, “Blue Zones,” has shed light on the fascinating connection between longevity
and an active lifestyle in regions across the world where centenarians are more prevalent.
“Blue Zones” explores the areas of the world where people tend to live the longest, healthiest lives. Notably, it reveals that healthy aging is strongly connected to physical activity and the daily habits of these communities.
“For instance, they found that in Italy, longevity is correlated with the steepness of your village,” she learned. “People are walking all the time.”
Erin understands the profound implications of these findings, which is why she and her family fervently support Billings TrailNet’s mission to develop a comprehensive trail system. Their dedication to this cause stems from the belief that increasing access to trails and creating spaces for physical activity can have a direct and positive impact on the health and well-being of the Billings community.
Having convenient access to trails and the great outdoors serves as a powerful incentive for individuals to lead more active lives. In fact, she sees engineers at her family’s business going for mountain bike rides during lunch breaks, which is a testament to the importance of having trails and other recreational amenities closeby.
A commitment to quality of life
One of the core values of Billings Flying Service is to be a great place to work. They emphasize a holistic view of their employees, supporting them not only in their careers but also in their personal lives. This commitment to employee well-being extends to the community as well, as they aim to make Billings a place where the quality of life is prioritized over the bottom line.
In addition to her work with Billings Flying Service, Erin has recently embarked on a new venture with partners, Lily Corning and Katie Edwards.
Carmel Cookie Waffle is now under the ownership of this dynamic trio, and they are “having the time of our lives,” says Erin.
This delightful cookie shop has added another layer to Erin’s entrepreneurial spirit, showcasing her ability to take on new challenges and make them succeed.
One of Erin’s projects is to refurbish an old Stroopwafel machine, which is a Dutch creation from the late ’70s and one of the only cookie ovens in the world known of this vintage to be running.
Erin Heringer’s life journey is a testament to the power of family, community, and leadership. Her commitment to making Billings a better place to live and work, both through Billings Flying Service and her new venture, is inspiring. She embodies the spirit of Montana, where the sky’s the limit, and every challenge is an opportunity for growth and improvement.