BILLINGS — Santa Claus will make his annual flight around Billings, Lockwood, and Laurel starting at 5:15 p.m. on Christmas Eve, a source close to the Christmas icon told Q2 on Wednesday.
Since about 1980, Santa has gotten a bit of help on his journey from pilots with the Blain family, who own Billings Flying Service. The company's pilots are usually out fighting wildfires or lifting heavy objects into tight places, but their part-time job is to spread cheer on Christmas Eve.
"We’ve been doing it as long as I’ve been alive, so it would be quite strange not to continue with it. I quite enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun," said Ashli Blain, the third generation of the family to fly with Santa.
Ashli, 19, will be in the cockpit of a Black Hawk helicopter with her dad, Gary, lifting the lighted Santa figure over town. Ashli said since Santa is hanging onto the helicopter, they can't fly directly over Billings but will skirt the perimeter of the city.
“We can’t go over town since we have Santa Claus hanging underneath. We have to stay kind of on the perimeter. The circle usually takes about an hour or so," Ashli said.
Ashli said the pilots can see the community enjoying the yearly tradition from up in the air.
"When we’re out flying, people will have spotlights that they shine up at us trying to get us to come over their house. It’s just neat to see the reaction in the community. We really enjoy it," Ashli said.
When the Black Hawk helicopter isn't helping Santa on his worldwide journey to deliver presents, it's usually out fighting wildfires or lifting heavy objects for construction work.