He’s not an emotional support animal, but this gigantic bald eagle still got to fly beside its handler on a North Carolina plane… and really, we wouldn’t be surprised if the aviary passenger was among the more well-behaved on the flight.
TSA officers at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport knew in advance about their special passenger. Clark the bald eagle was with the World Bird Sanctuary, a nature preserve located in St. Louis County, Missouri. It’s not clear whether Clark and his handler were heading back to their home base or taking a joy ride to the East Coast. Either way, though, the bald eagle turned a lot of heads in the airport.
On Twitter, TSA Southeast posted a couple of photos of the handsome passenger as he showed off his massive wingspan. Apparently, his handler wanted the bald eagle to have a chance to stretch his wings in a seat beside him, rather than continue to ride in his cage.
“TSA officers are used to seeing an eagle on their uniform as they look over their shoulder, but I’m sure the team at @CLTAirport Checkpoint A did a double take when they saw a real one earlier this week,” the airport posted.
“Our special guest was Clark the Eagle with the World Bird Sanctuary, who decided to give his wings a break and fly commercial,” it continued in another tweet. “His airline notified us and we screened him and his handler.”
Bald Eagle Is the Flying Ambassador for the World Bird Sanctuary
Apparently, Clark’s place on the commercial flight wasn’t all that out of the ordinary. Per the FAA’s guidelines, it’s up to the airline to decide whether an animal can fly with the rest of the passengers. Since they received plenty of notice about the bald eagle and its handler, the North Carolina airline was more than happy to accommodate the feathered flyer.
And before Clark boarded his flight, he even got to show off his gorgeous wings for an audience of TSA officers and fellow flyers. Of course, he had many admirers after that.
According to the World Bird Sanctuary, Clark hatched at the preserve and has been with them ever since. Initially, the intention was to release Clark into the wild to help bring the population out of endangered status. However, handlers soon realized that the beloved bald eagle had a “scale deformity” on his feet that made him prone to frostbite in the winter.
So, instead, Clark entered training and became the World Bird Sanctuary’s career flying ambassador.
Now, he travels with his handler across the country and the world to promote the sanctuary’s purpose and spread awareness for the animals that share our skies.