A stunning winged traveler turned heads at a North Carolina airport security checkpoint this week.
Clark, a 19-year-old bald eagle, flew through Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Monday, the Transportation Security Administration said. A majestic bird moving past metal detectors isn’t an everyday sight – so photos and video footage have taken off on social media, with Clark capturing many hearts.
“Our special guest was Clark the Eagle from World Bird Sanctuary, who decided to give his wings some break and fly publicity,” said the TSA Southeast Twitter account, run by the regional spokesperson for the TSA. TSA, Mark Howell, written thursday.
“His airline informed us and we checked him and his handler. Clark is trained to spread his wings and even showed himself a bit during the check.”
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Clark weighs about 7½ pounds and has a wingspan of just over 6 feet, his handler Daniel Cone, assistant director of the World Bird Sanctuary, told USA TODAY on Friday.
Clark and Cone went through airport security on Monday to fly home High Point University Graduation Ceremony the night before, Cone said.
“He flies every year for the High Point University graduation ceremony, freshman ceremony, and Veterans Day ceremony. It’s a great experience!” Cone wrote in an email sent to USA TODAY.
Cone traveled with Clark in High Point for about 10 years. The two have known each other for even longer.
“I’ve 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 together,” Cone said.
Each airline has its own policy regarding the carriage of animals on commercial flights. Cone says he always flies with Southwest when he travels with Clark – and they’re “very grateful” to the airline for welcoming the eagle.
The airline makes “special exceptions” with certain animal organizations, such as the World Bird Sanctuary, to allow animals to travel in the cabin on its flights, Southwest said in a statement to USA TODAY.
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While passing through the Charlotte airport security checkpoint on Monday, the TSA took Clark down a separate lane – temporarily removing the eagle from its carrier for screening away from other passengers, Howell told ABC News.