Emerald Air Service exists to educate our guests about Katmai's majestic residents, the Coastal Brown Bear, and the country in which they live. We hope that everyone who takes one of our trips leaves with, not only great photographs, but with an understanding of bears, knowledge of how to move through their world, and a love for all wild places.
Emerald Air Service was founded in 1991 by Chris and Ken Day. The newly wed couple set out to build a life doing what they loved together. And they succeeded—pioneering the guided bear viewing day trip industry in Alaska while touching thousands of lives as they shared this corner of Alaska and the Katmai bears. They retired in 2009, selling their business to Craig and Sarah Elg—excellent custodians of Chris and Ken's legacy. In 2019, Emerald Air Service found a new owner in Chris Freeman, whose love for all things Alaskan gave him the ambition to own not just any bear viewing company, but this one. With his energetic vision, Emerald Air Service's fleet has grown and now has a state of the art dock and lovely cabins—including the main office—on the quiet shores of Beluga Lake.
Meet Our Guides
Naturalist guides are at the heart of Emerald Air Service's mission. All EAS guides are trained and certified in First Aid/CPR; have completed the Katmai Service Provider's Bear Viewing Guide Excellence program; and continue their education together in in-house naturalist training, always building on their skills and knowledge of Katmai's ecosystem and bear biology. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing understanding and love for the bears and this country spread to our guests—and our guides' passion is infectious!
You can read more about our guides and about our standards of bear viewing etiquette here.
Upon retiring from the Navy after 22 years stationed all around the world, including a tour in Afghanistan, he was hired on with Hallo Bay Wilderness Lodge out of Homer, Alaska, where he was trained as a Naturalist Guide. During his tenure there, he rose to the position of lead guide and then in 2018 joined the Emerald Air Service team as our lead Naturalist Guide. Lance has been guiding in Katmai and Lake Clark National Parks for 9 years and truly enjoys the work he does in the field and teaching people about the wonders of the park.
Brian has over 25 years as a guide in Alaska. His travel throughout, and his knowledge of the Katmai National Park & Preserve, Kachemak Bay and the Kenai Peninsula are extensive. Brian has guided personal expeditions for Netflix, National Geographic, as well as celebrity clients. As owner of the Anchor River Fly Shop, Brian is an expert fly fisherman; Brian is also a former US Navy Corpsman and EMT. Brian joined Emerald Air Service in 2022 and is proud to share Katmai National Park and Preserve with Emerald Air Service guests.
Bear Viewing Philosophy
What sets Emerald Air Service's Bear Guides Apart from Other Bear Viewing Operators?
Basically "bear etiquette"—the bears come first. At Emerald Air Service, we follow our simple philosophy, that this is the bears' world and we are only guests in it for a short period of time, and need to behave that way. Our goal is to not disturb any bears while in the field. If we do, then we did something wrong. In addition to bear viewing, we also strive to educate our guests' on everything bears—from behavior, lifecycle, reproduction, taxonomy, seasonal diet, to denning, etc.—not just go out and see a bear. There is also all the other flora and fauna, geology, and history of the area that are incredible. When out in bear country, we use proven techniques that have been passed down from guide to guide at Emerald Air Service.
The DHC-3 Otter was manufactured between 1951 and 1967, and aviation has not been able to improve on this ideal bush aircraft. Emerald Air Service is fortunate enough to own two de Havilland Otters. These classic planes (manufactured in 1958 and 1962) have been upgraded to have state of the art turbine engines for even greater power, speed, and safety.
Features of our DHC-3 Otters
Each aircraft seats up to 10 people + pilot
Every passenger has their own spacious seat, window, and headset.
We operator on floats for greatest safety flying over the Cook Inlet and unparalleled access to the remote corners of Katmai.
All EAS aircraft are equipped with ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) and Spidertracks for constant flight monitoring.
Perfect Safety Record
In 30 years of operation, Emerald Air Service has never had an accident. This is due to a tireless commitment to excellence, safety, and sound judgement regarding Alaska's unique, powerful combination of natural forces.
Meet Our Flight Crew
Director of Operations. Joe has over 40 years of aviation experience. Roughly halfway through his navy career, he was winged as a Naval Aviator in 1991. After 20 years of active duty service, Joe retired and began a career in civilian aviation. He holds an Airline Transport Rating and a Lear Jet type rating. Joe has a Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation Management and has held positions as Chief Pilot, Director of Operations, and was the General Manager of Superior Air Center and Million Air Medford from 2003 – 2020. Joe enjoys playing guitar, cycling, and traveling with his wife, Jan.
Chief Pilot. With over 40 years of experience flying in remote parts of North America, aviation is Mark’s vocation and favorite hobby. Mark has 9,000 hours of experience flying seaplanes in Alaska specifically. Throughout his career, Mark has worked nearly every facet of small plane aviation by being a ramp agent, customer service agent, Check Airman, Chief Pilot, Director of Operations, as well as owner and operator of his own seaplane business.
During his off-season, Mark lives in Michigan with his wife, Linda.
Director of Maintenance. Jim has over 40 years of experience as an aviation mechanic, and over 35 years of experience as a pilot. Jim has held an FAA Inspector Authorization for over three decades, and he has found a great sense of enjoyment working in the aviation industry; and with Emerald Air Service he has realized great satisfaction in the tourism industry. As the owner of his own float plane, Jim can often be found leaving the water for the air, and flying around with his wife, Sharon. When not flying, he and Sharon enjoy hiking, traveling, local cuisine, concerts, and are often participating in fundraising events together as volunteers.
Pilot. Dave has approximately 20,000 hours of flight time in 50+ types of aircraft, 6,000 hours of that time were specifically spent flying seaplanes in Alaska. He holds 6 instructor ratings and two mechanic ratings, including FAA inspector authorization.
In college, Dave was an Academic All-American, a 12 time member of the USA track and field team, and qualified for 5 national triathlon championships and 3 US Olympic trials. He is also an avid fisherman. Dave spends his off-season in Washington with his wife Mary.