March 26, 2020

Billings Flying Service, a family-owned operation specializing in aerial lift and firefighting, recently reprogrammed 3-D printers to produce protective face masks for local medical personnel in Billings, MT, in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

The company is no stranger to community service and even global humanitarian efforts – it flies six Chinook CH-47Ds and a Blackhawk to fight fires with U.S. Forest Service, Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs and more. The company also worked in Hurricane Katrina recovery in Louisiana and tsunami aid in Indonesia and regularly conducts search and rescue missions in the Rocky Mountain Region.

“We have always been a community-based business,” said Billings Flying Service’s Ali Blain. “We support our community and our community supports us back. We wanted to help in any way we can, even if it’s just locally.”

Billing Flying Service’s engineers Peter Yegen and Mikale Lynch came upon the idea of 3-D printed masks for healthcare professionals in a local newspaper article, which featured a local dentist and his son who developed a prototype of a 3-D printed mask. Yegen and Lynch then modified that design to more appropriately match the specifications of their own 3-D printers, as well as Billing Flying Service’s 3-D printer.

The Billings Flying Service team can produce about 18 masks in a 24-hour production period.


Photos courtesy of Billings Flying Service

“Obviously there’s a great need for these masks,” said Yegen. “We aren’t anywhere close to mass production, but it’s a chance for us to help out our community.”

After 3-D printing at Billings Flying Service, the masks will be outfitted with a filter from a local filter company and then distributed to Billings Clinic.

The Billings Flying Service team has been contacted by other organizations, including an aeromedical services provider in Kentucky, for design specifications.