This day is set aside to honor our national symbol, raise awareness for protecting the Bald Eagle, assist in the recovery of their natural environments, and take part in educational outreach.
Have you ever heard of the American Eagle Foundation (AEF)? AEF is an organization whose mission is to care for and protect the Bald Eagle, and other birds of prey through the four pillars of education, re-population, conservation, and rehabilitation.
For over 20 years, the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) has been traveling coast-to-coast with a very unique celebrity. His name is Challenger, and he's a 27-year-old male Bald Eagle
Challenger the Bald Eagle is AEF’s most well-known eagle. Challenger is also a frequent flier and celebrity here at Southwest Airlines! He is the first eagle in U.S. history trained to free-fly through stadiums during the National Anthem. He's flown at nearly 400 events mostly professional and collegiate sporting events.
Due to this special partnership with AEF, we allow Challenger to fly with us to help him get to all of his fun events. So far in 2017, Challenger has visited Austin (AUS), Nashville (BNA), Baltimore (BWI), Dallas (Dallas), Washington D.C. (DCA), Las Vegas (LAS), New York LaGuardia (LGA), Chicago Midway (MDW), Tampa (TPA), and Phoenix (PHX). He has flown 15 one-way flights in 2017, and would need only 10 more to be an A-List Customer!
As a matter of fact, this year alone, Challenger has flown close to 12,700 nautical miles onboard a Southwest Luvjet as a Customer. That’s the approximate equivalent of flying from Baltimore (BWI) to Oakland (OAK) six times, Las Vegas (LAS) to Seattle (SEA) 14 times, and Dallas (DAL) to Houston Hobby (HOU) 50 times!
All birds share the same aerodynamic principles airplanes do. Bird wings are designed to achieve lift through differences in pressure as air moves over and under the wing. Birds, including eagles, also have hollow (yet very strong) bones to decrease total body weight and help in flight. Unlike many other birds, eagles are fairly heavy and bulky birds and are not designed for quick flight and maneuvers. Because of this, they need a lot of room and energy to take off, not unlike an airplane. Airplanes and eagles use their large wings once airborne to take advantage of air currents and natural thermals, to float almost effortlessly at great heights and over long distances.
The next time you soar on a Southwest flight, it may be with Challenger!