Bald eagle that flew over national championship game turns heads at Tampa International Airport security line
Challenger, the bald eagle that soared over the field at Raymond James Stadium before the national championship game between Clemson and Alabama, attracted attention at Tampa International aiport on Tuesday.
Travelers, many of whom were headed home after the big game, pulled out their phones to get a photo as trainer Spencer Williams carried the 27-year-old bird of prey through the security screening area.
"Challenger goes through security like everyone else," said Laura Sterens, director of operations for American Eagle Foundation, which cares for Challenger. "He flies exclusively on Southwest. He does travel inside the passenger cabin, but he's in a carrier that takes up two seats and gets buckled in. We have to buy two tickets for him, and on the tickets it even says, 'Challenger Eagle'."
Challenger was headed back to his home at the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. where the American Eagle Foundation cares for about 80 non-releasable birds of prey, Sterens said.
Challenger was rescued as a baby after falling from a wild nest in Louisiana during a storm. He experienced too much human contact at a very young age to ever be returned to the wild, Sterens said. The bird now appears at NFL and college games throughout the season.
You can watch his flight at the national championship game in Tampa below.