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Sweepstakes Tiger winner: Speechless in Petaluma

AOPA President Mark Baker springs Grumman Tiger surprise

Lured to the Petaluma, California, airport under the guise of an interview about backcountry flying, avid pilot Alex Browne found himself completely speechless when AOPA President Mark Baker delivered the news that he had won the AOPA Sweepstakes Grumman Tiger.

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.”

  • AOPA content producer Niki Britton records sweepstakes winner Alex Browne, as AOPA’s Mark Baker and Kollin Stagnito approach for the surprise. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • AOPA sweepstakes winner Alex Browne sees AOPA President, Mark Baker, for the first time. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • AOPA President Mark Baker introduces himself to Alex Browne with a handshake. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • AOPA sweepstakes winner Alex Browne realizes he’s won the Grumman Tiger. Photo by Niki Britton.
  • AOPA sweepstakes winner Alex Browne celebrates with a handshake from Mark Baker. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • AOPA sweepstakes winner Alex Browne celebrates with the Grumman Tiger Tin Tail Numbers sign in his hangar in Petaluma, California. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • AOPA sweepstakes winner Alex Browne goes over the paperwork with a notary. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • The ‘AOPA Pilot’ magazine featuring the AOPA Sweepstakes Grumman Tiger and the aircraft’s Tin Tail Numbers sign rest on the couch in Alex Browne’s hangar. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • AOPA sweepstakes winner Alex Browne poses for a celebratory photo with wife, Soraya, and son, Cal. Photo by Chris Rose.
  • AOPA’s Mark Baker, Kollin Stagnito, and Niki Britton pose with the Browne family. Photo by Chris Rose.

Niki Britton

eMedia Content Producer
eMedia Content Producer Niki Britton joined AOPA in 2021. She is a private pilot who enjoys flying her 1969 Cessna 182 and taking aerial photographs.
Topics: AOPA

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