CPOAEA(M) Nicola Howse 

I joined the Royal Navy at age 17 in August 1998 as an Artificer Apprentice. During my basic training at Fisgard Squadron, HMS Raleigh I was chosen to be an Air Engineering Artificer and proceeded on to the Initial Training Group at HMS Sultan to carry out my basic aircraft maintenance course.

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In October 1999 I joined 899 Naval Air Squadron to undergo my continuation training on the Navy`s variant of the Harrier, the Sea Harrier FA2. In February 2000 I joined 800 NAS and deployed around the UK on detachment and also served on board HMS Invincible before returning to the Air Engineering School to complete my Mechanical Artificer course in September 2000.

After leaving the AES in December 2002 I was drafted back to the Sea Harrier circuit on 899 NAS at RNAS Yeovilton to consolidate the knowledge learnt on my artificers course and then was drafted to the Sea Harrier sheet metal bay where I was employed to carry out sheet metal repairs to the aircraft during depth maintenance. After a short stint back on 899 NAS as an aircraft maintenance supervisor I was drafted to 20(R), RAF Wittering to work alongside the RAF on their variant of the Harrier, the GR7/T10.

I spent 6 years on 20(R) in various different engineering roles including maintaining aircraft, facilitating the training of new engineers and engineering operations. I detached to several places namely America, Cyprus and Scotland. During this time I was also a Harrier Air Display Team Manager which involved detaching the air display aircraft to various air displays and supporting the air display pilot and I was involved in recovering aircraft that had landed with difficulties at different airfields around the country.

In August 2010 I returned to a Naval Squadron, Naval Strike Wing at RAF Cottesmore and remained there until the Harrier was decommissioned as part of the 2010 SDSR.

My next draft was with the Army at 4 Regiment Army Air Corps. Here I worked as an engineer on the Apache Attack Helicopter. This was a busy period of my career; I was involved in several exercises around the UK and in El Centro, America and deployed twice to Afghanistan in 2012 and 2013 in support of Operation Herrick.

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I moved on in June 2014 to become an instructor at the Royal Naval Air Engineering and Survival Equipment School at HMS Sultan. Here I taught mechanical systems engineering and fault diagnosis to Petty Officers, Chief Petty Officers and Junior Officers. Alongside a colleague I developed a student’s study group to give students access to an instructor after work in a more informal atmosphere to assist with their learning. This was a great success and I was selected to receive a Herbett Lott award.

In April 2017 I joined 1710 NAS and am currently training to become a Project Service Engineer and subsequently a Project Manager providing Service Modification support to the Fleet Air Arm.

I chose engineering because I was always better at Maths and sciences at school rather than humanity subjects and I wanted a career that would suit me. I was always logically minded and interested in how things worked. I joined the Royal Navy as I came from an Armed forces background and I was attracted by the qualifications I could gain alongside practical experience rather than choosing the university path.

I enjoy the variety that comes with my job. Every day has the potential to be different when working on aircraft as every fault is different.  I have taken on many different roles from maintainer to supervisor to instructor and in management roles.

It is a great career choice as although it is hard work, it is challenging and rewarding. There are multiple opportunities to train and work on state of the art equipment and gain useful engineering qualifications and practical experience.

In the future I hope to complete my degree in Engineering management and my project management qualifications. I believe I will always work in engineering and I am interested in transitioning from aircraft to renewable energy as a second career path when I leave the Royal Navy. I believe aircraft engineering in the Royal Navy is developing to keep current in line with the new equipment being brought into service so it will be an exciting place to be in the future when the F35s and the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers are delivered.

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