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 the emerald team
Director of Operations. Derick has a passion for Alaskan aviation and sharing wildlife experiences with others who also enjoy Alaska’s beauty. Derick is a member of the Homer community and has been working in the bear viewing industry for over a decade. In addition to the director of operations role, Derick has also served as chief pilot, check airmen, and a naturalist for over 1100 bear trips.
Through his experience as a pilot, Derick has gathered extensive knowledge of the local terrain and wildlife natural habitat within Katmai National Park. He applies this knowledge to oversee safe, exciting, and memorable trips for all those seeking Alaska adventure.
On his off time, Derick enjoys all Alaska outdoor activities, especially doing them with his 3 children.
Seeking new adventures in 2017, Terrilynn moved to Alaska. She has been a part of the Emerald Air Service family for three years. As a member of the customer service team, she fields phone calls about trips and helps manage each guest's experience with a goal of making it "first class" from start to finish. Her favorite time of each day is helping guests get ready for their trip of a lifetime. She loves greeting guests at the end of the day who have just experienced what many describe as the "best day ever." Terrilynn has been known to watch too much bear cam television, tell too many bear jokes and talk incessantly about fat bears. When she's not telling bear jokes, you can find her doing stained glass mosaics or writing haiku poetry. All her artistic work may be all about bears at this point and we love it.
"Please bear with me, bears are life."
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.
Erica has worked as an outdoor adventure guide for 19 years. Her profession has taken her around the world, guiding in more than 20 countries and throughout the United States. She has escorted thousands of guests on multi-day active trips; in regions ranging across the South Pacific, Europe, North and South America, and Southeast Asia. Erica fell in love with Alaska early in her career and often visited for work and recreation. She moved to Homer in 2020 and began guiding for EAS in 2021. Erica loves sharing her passion for conservation and love and respect for the Brown Bears of Katmai National Park with Emerald Air Service guests. Erica is trained in Wilderness First Responder, CPR, and First Aid.
Arabella started her guiding career as a wilderness therapy guide teaching adolescents primitive fire making skills and map and compass navigation. She first came to Alaska to guide for a Wilderness Lodge , leading kayaking, and hiking in which she has spent over 400 field days in the backcountry. She is excited in taking her next steps in guiding guests through some of Alaska's beautiful landscapes including Katmai National park, which she believes is the most beautiful place on earth. She works both in the office and as a naturalist guide for EAS. In her free time, she plays soccer, paints, dances, backpacks and teaches Yoga. During her off season she has plans to guide in Fairbanks, Alaska on Aurora Borealis viewing.
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.
Meet Our Flight Crew
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 he's not flying, he and Sharon enjoy hiking, traveling, local cuisine, concerts, and are often participating in fundraising events together as volunteers.
Don earned his pilot’s license in 1981. He flew in the US Air Force from 1982 – 2007, and has flown
continuously since then. He has flown in Alaska on and off since the mid 1990’s in different aircrafts such as F-15s, DeHavilland Otters, and Cessnas.
When he's not flying, he enjoys traveling, adventuring in the outdoors, and tending to his mini-farm in Virginia where he winters.
Andrew has flown 25+ types of aircraft, holds certifications for gliders, airplanes and helicopters, and is a certified flight instructor. Originating from the East Coast, Andrew grew up immersed in airplanes, outboard motors, and the outdoors along the Susquehanna River. His love for flying was initially engrained through 5 generations of aviators. In addition to his flight experience, he holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Safety Management and maintains an Emergency Medical Technician license. Andrew operates as a pilot and Director of Safety on the East Coast during Alaska’s off season.
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.
Mark's sense of humor would say he's from "Humble albeit Podunk beginnings in the backwoods of Pennsyltucky." Mark
has always had his grin cocked sideways, his hand on a throttle and his eyes on the horizon. You'll find that same kid driving the water taxis here in Alaska; even if the trail of miles and smiles have weathered his shinier and rounder form. When he's not flying guests to see the bears, you'll find Mark on his wily steed, Ripp Tide or snowboarding the remote hills of Wyoming.
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 9 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 32 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.