Donna Sommer has made some great contributions to the aviation community. She recently was honored in OshKosh Wisconsin for her contributions and achievement. Thank you Donna for all you have done!
EAA and Chapter Dedication
Donna Wilson-Sommer, now 84, has dedicated many decades to the aviation communities around the Pacific Northwest. She joined Seattle EAA chapter 26 In Seattle. She started her service to WPA in 1972 in the Green River WPA Chapter in Kent, WA (SEA). She also chaired the Seattle “Flying Toys for Tots”, assisting the USMC “Toys for Tots” effort.
Donna married Trent Sommer and they moved to Sequim, WA in 1998. After moving to Sequim, they joined EAA Chapter 430 (W28). In 2004, Donna and her husband opened their hangar for EAA 430 meetings, and it is still the chapter’s home today.
Her passion was the Young Eagles (YE) program and she set up the first YE rally for the chapter. In 2003, the chapter flew 201 YE’s with 96 sorties in one day, a part of Port Angeles Airport day festivities. She has continued to volunteer every year, including the May 2018 rally.
Donna received the President’s Award for outstanding support in 2000 after hosting 90 people at EAA 430’s first potluck at Monterra EAA meeting hall.
Donna was elected Vice President of EAA 430 in 2003, and served until 2005.
In 2004, Donna established and organized the monthly summer potlucks in her Sequim Valley (W28) hangar, an event that still continues today. Thinking it would be a good conversation starter, she created a total of 22 project reports on individual airplane construction projects with large story boards including pictures. She would lug these to each monthly meeting.
She established and organized the annual EAA Christmas party and invited the Washington Pilots Association local chapter to join in the festivities. She continues to coordinate the EAA/WPA Christmas party, including Toys for Tots donations.
At 80 years old, she and Trent started building an RV-12 in their hangar. She was involved elbow deep in the construction, and with mentors, they completed the project in 2016 (N712WE).
Service to the community
In 1978, Donna and her husband, Harold Wilson, had just finished re-upholstering their second Navion, which had a larger engine to accommodate the needs of flying with their three sons. Her husband, Harold, was State Treasurer of the Washington Pilot Association (WPA) and at age 45 suddenly became ill with Acute Leukemia and died a month later. Donna was left with three sons, ages 10, 11, and 18. She did not even have a driver’s license to get around town.
Donna found she missed the flying that had been so much a part of her life. After her husband died, she began flight training at Boeing Field 9th busiest field in USA and achieved her Private Pilot License in 1980 while single parenting her three sons.
For eight years, Donna filled her husband’s WPA State Treasurer’s term, a position he held before his death. WPA was attending their first Aviation Conference and Trade Show (NWAC & Trade Show) and she was chairman of the booth for 13 years. She designed a presentation for the organization that was used for the NWAC and Northwest EAA Airshow (now known as the Arlington Fly-in which is celebrating its 50th year). Donna was elected WPA State President for two terms from 1985-87. “Come Alive in 85!” was her slogan with the birth of a new state newspaper “Wings” which is still published today.
Donna and two of her sons joined the Civil Air Patrol Seattle Composite Squadron where she was trained as a search pilot and observer for Search and Rescue missions. She not only flew the CAP planes, but also cooked for 90 boys at year round training at Shelton Airport. She served as a 1st Lieutenant at Class A cadet encampment at McChord Air Force Base, including a week of training in the Olympic Mountains, receiving Awards for most inspiring team member, and Seattle Squadron Outstanding Senior.
In 1985 Donna joined the Greater Seattle Chapter of the International Women’s 99’s. As a project of the 99’s, she was the project organizer for painting the airport name at Sequim Valley.
Over the years, she has received the following awards from the Washington Pilots Association:
1984 – Dick Corey Distinguished Service Award
1987 – Pilot of the Year Award
1988 – Pilot of the Year Award
1996 – Bernie Lyman Award for contribution to Chapter size, Strength and Purpose
The Washington State Division of Aeronautics has awarded her:
1984- Gerber Memorial Award
1988- Aviator of the Year
After completing three years at the University of Washington, Donna married Harold Wilson in 1956 and joined him at the University of Illinois. They became active in aviation in 1960 after returning to the Seattle area. They were active with the Navioneers and WPA.
After Harold’s sudden death, getting her driver’s license and taking flying lessons at Boeing Field, she began working as a contract draftsman for engineering firms. She drew civil, mechanical, electrical, and site plans for two gas turbine Puget Power plants. She would often fly over the plants under construction and take photos to facilitate the building process. She went on to draw plans at Todd Shipyard for the renovation and refit of five Class 714 Coast Guard Cutters with adding retractable hangars and moving the Combat Information Center to a lower deck.
In 1995, she worked for the WACO Airplane company at Renton Field (Renton, WA). She was hired by the owners to redraft the existing plans purchased from the Smithsonian for the WACO UPF-7.
In addition to her accomplishments, Donna is also an artist. She has been painting commissioned watercolor portraits of airplanes, and has completed over 160 planes. She also markets airplane note cards of her portraits. She generously gives out note card portraits at the annual Christmas party. Donna met her second husband, Trent Sommer, after he saw a portrait of his plane at a show and wanted to meet the artist. They were married shortly after they met. She and Trent flew across country twice, from Sequim to Iowa, in an RV-6. On their last trip to Iowa, they came back to Sequim in one day, both pilots taking turns.
LETTER TO DONNA FROM EAA JULY 2018: