A stunning, winged traveler turned heads at a North Carolina airport’s security checkpoint this week.
Clark, a 19-year-old bald eagle, traveled through Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Monday, the Transportation Security Administration said. A majestic bird moving alongside metal detectors isn’t an everyday sight – so photos and video footage soon took off on social media, with Clark capturing many hearts.
“Our special guest was Clark the Eagle with the World Bird Sanctuary, who decided to give his wings a break and fly commercial,” the TSA Southeast Twitter account, run by TSA regional spokesperson Mark Howell, wrote on Thursday.
“His airline notified us and we screened him and his handler. Clark is trained to spread his wings, and even showed off a bit during screening.”
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Clark weighs about 7.5 pounds and has a wingspan of just over 6 feet, his handler Daniel Cone, assistant director of World Bird Sanctuary, told USA TODAY on Friday.
Clark and Cone went through the airport’s security checkpoint Monday to fly home from High Point University’s Convocation Ceremony that took place the day prior, Cone added.
“He flies for High Point University’s graduation ceremony, incoming freshman ceremony, and Veteran’s Day ceremony every year. It’s a great experience!” Cone wrote in email sent to USA TODAY.
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Cone has traveled with Clark to High Point for about 10 years. The two have known each other for even longer.
“I have worked with Clark for 16 years now. I started with him when I was 13 (as a volunteer) and he was 3. We kind of grew up together,” Cone stated.
Each airline has different policies for bringing animals on commercial flights. Cone says he always flies with Southwest when traveling with Clark – and that they are “very thankful” to the airline for accommodating the eagle.
The airline makes “special exceptions” with certain animal organizations, like the World Bird Sanctuary, to allow animals to travel in-cabin on its flights, Southwest said in a statement to USA TODAY.
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When traveling through the Charlotte airport’s security checkpoint on Monday, TSA brought Clark into a separate lane – temporarily removing the eagle from its carrier for a screening away from the other passengers, Howell explained to ABC News.