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Sweepstakes Tiger winner: Speechless in Petaluma

I had lured Browne, an AOPA member since the age of 16, to the Petaluma airport on July 15 under the guise of an interview about backcountry flying and his modified Cessna 185. AOPA Director of Photography Chris Rose was accompanying me for the interview. Little did 33-year-old Browne know, AOPA President Mark Baker and AOPA Senior Vice President of Media and Marketing Kollin Stagnito were hiding just out of sight eagerly awaiting the signal to step in.

Already surprised by Baker’s sudden appearance, the shock set in as Baker explained that Browne was now the proud owner of the Grumman Tiger and presented him with the aircraft’s Tin Tail Numbers sign. “Whoa, WHOA, WHAT?! No…I’m blown away!” Browne exclaimed. “This is like the first thing I’ve actually won!”

Browne was quick to call his wife to share the good news, “I uhh..I just won a plane…the AOPA sweepstakes, the giveaway of the Grumman Tiger.” Browne’s wife, Soraya, knew the aircraft, and after confirming the aircraft was the same one to grace the cover of a recent AOPA Pilot magazine a few months prior, exclaimed, “I’m speechless!” before heading to the airport with their son, Cal, to celebrate.

Along with winning the Tiger, AOPA will host Browne and his family at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in Wisconsin, a trip that Browne said was on his bucket list, so he can meet his new aircraft for the first time.

The Grumman Tiger is nearly unrecognizable since its inside-and-out transformation and is truly one of a kind.

Browne, a commercial pilot, started taking flying lessons when he was 14 years old and earned his private pilot certificate before his driver’s license. A passionate outdoorsman, Browne has become adept at flying in the backcountry in his Cessna 185. Of his new Grumman Tiger, he said, “I see this as an opportunity to give back and help boost aviation within the local community. I’m hoping to get more people involved in aviation—the first being my wife!”

“The experience of being surprised by Mark Baker,” Browne said, “was one I’ll never forget. I’m a huge fan of him and everything he has done to promote backcountry flying. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would have the opportunity to meet Mark in person, let alone have him stand in my hangar! The whole experience was pretty surreal. I was so excited for this exposé that I thought AOPA was doing on my aircraft, so I had been busy the past three days cleaning the hangar, detailing the plane, mounting tundra tires, and preparing for the interview. I didn’t have any suspicion that anything else was going to happen come Friday morning. The whole thing is still setting in. This is a totally life-changing experience for me, and I can’t wait to continue the celebration with everyone at OSH! Thank you to everyone that was involved behind the scenes in pulling off the surprise of a lifetime.”

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