I joined NATS in 1987 as an Engineer Cadet straight after graduating from the technical college I attended after leaving school. As a long-standing aviation geek, I made sure to follow the course modules which I hoped would make me a good candidate for the company and luckily it paid off and I joined NATS, initially training at Bletchley Park then working at Heathrow Airport, then Manchester Airport & Area Control Centre before moving to Prestwick Centre in 2010.

As I now approach retirement, I can honestly say that working at NATS over the past 35 years has been everything I hoped it would be, enjoyable and challenging.

Whilst at Heathrow I became interested in Quality Management, which I moved into as a full-time role after a period as an engineer at Manchester. Next came Safety Management and Assurance, followed by a period in Business and Quality Management before I returned to Safety Management and Assurance in the role of a Safety Assurance Specialist at Prestwick Centre.

For as long as I can remember I have loved aircraft. I used to go to airport viewing galleries whenever I could and was fascinated by the sights and sounds of an airport. Alongside this, I also loved electronics, taking things apart and (hopefully!) putting them back together again. I knew a career at NATS would enable me to indulge both my hobbies, which is why I was so keen to join the company.

Safety Assurance may not be the first graduate scheme you think of when you leave university with your aviation related degree, but it is not a career path to be overlooked. I think for me personally, I’ve found assurance work fits my personality and the type of work I enjoy – challenging, checking, and questioning others to ensure the safety argument is in place. Change is a constant in NATS, and our role is to make sure the arguments and evidence are in place to demonstrate that the current operation remains safe and that any changes to the operation don’t impede this. I’ve personally been involved in number of changes over the years including the iTEC introduction at Prestwick Centre, in 2016.

iTEC in use at Prestwick

It’s hard to pinpoint my one favourite thing about working at NATS but I think the consistent thing throughout my time has been the support and friendship of my colleagues. The team at NATS are very much committed to what they do and are always on hand to help, discuss and to challenge (in a friendly way!) where it’s required. I think this is what makes NATS the great company that it is and why I have enjoyed my career so much. Having the opportunities to explore different roles and watching colleagues join the company and progress, building their experience, knowledge and careers has been fantastic.

If you are thinking of working in the dynamic world of aviation and specifically NATS, I’d suggest you don’t hesitate. I look back at my career and don’t have a single regret – I have found working in all areas rewarding in their own way. Working in Safety Assurance allows you to gain knowledge and appreciation for all areas of the operation, both the human and the technical aspects, which again, I have found very rewarding. Aviation is a fast moving and challenging industry and working with NATS allows you to be a part of shaping that.

NATS has been a fantastic company to work for, I’ve had a wonderful career and I’m grateful for the opportunities it has given me. The work has been interesting and challenging and my colleagues are more than colleagues now, they’re friends, and I know I’m going to miss them. I hope to stay in touch and to watch from afar as NATS continues to innovate and progress. For those who may join the company from 2023 when I have retired, I wish you the best of luck, but I know for sure you will be in excellent hands.

We are currently recruiting for our 2023 graduate schemes and industrial placements in safety assurance as well as a whole host of other areas. If you are interested, please visit our Early Careers webpages.


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Matt Mills

Great blog Howie – it’s been an absolute pleasure working with you over the years – enjoy your time outside of NATS and be sure to stay in touch!



Doug Maclean

Howie was one of the first of the Manchester team to move to Prestwick and he so positive about the move that his attitude was infectious among his colleagues. High morale and excellent skills all round made the Prestwick Centre a model of great project management

I was privileged to get to know Howie well and we became friends as well as management colleagues

I’m sure you have a new 4×4 chosen for your retirement Howie and welcome to the best job you will ever get.



Gavin Walker

That’s a great blog Howie and your contribution throughout your 35 years has been fantastic. Enjoy your time outside of NATS!



Jeff Hills

Enjoy your retirement Howie. I can remember when you were “young Howard” way back when.



Ben Bradshaw

What a fantastic post Howie. Have a great retirement and thanks for all your advice and support over the years.



Susan Kavanagh

Lovely to “see” you again Howie, great article!



Peter Heath

Great to hear your testimony Howie and thanks for all the enthusiasm you had for your job during the 13 years we shared at Manchester. Best wishes for your retirement. Peter Heath



Bob Thomson

Howie, Enjoy your well earned retirement. It was a pleasure to work with you and your contributtion to the transition to Prestwick Centre was much appreciated. All the best.
Bob Thomson



Peter Hargreaves

Hi Howie. Remember me? Here’s wishing you a long and happy retirement.



Graham Gall

Enjoyed reading your blog Howie. I remember working with you on watch at Heathrow in the early 90’s. I’ve since retired and can recommend it! Enjoy yours whatever you get up to.


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