We recently spoke to E-2D Test Pilot Nate Atkinson about his transition to civilian life, and a career at Northrop Grumman, after serving nearly 12 years active duty in the U.S. Navy.
How would you describe your relationship with the E-2D?
Nate: My relationship with the E-2D is, if I am going to be honest, kind of like a marriage in the fact that I have gotten to know the airplane really well. There is a deep level of trust. I know how she is going to respond, which is important. And there are a lot of really great times, and there are a lot of great qualities about her. There are rough times as well, but I know when I get through them that the plane and I will be better for it.
What was it like making the transition from the Navy to Northrop Grumman?
Nate: In the Navy, aviators wear green coverall flight suits. Now, as part of Northrop Grumman flight test, I wear an orange coverall flight suit. So, going from the Navy into the corporate world was a nice easy transition because I stayed within flight test. There was the mindset of shifting from one employer to another, and the military is unlike any other employer out there. You really do that for a love of your country and for your buddy next to you. Going into the orange suit at Northrop Grumman, I found that, in the flight test department and the company as a whole, it had a lot of similarities with the end user I used to be. A lot of the intrinsic values I felt in the green suit did transfer over to the orange suit.
How do you describe your new job to your military friends?
Nate: When I talk to my other military friends about my transition over to Northrop Grumman and the private sector, I just can’t stop smiling. I was nervous. I was scared. But once I got through that door and came in through this other door, everything felt right. I love what I do, and I get to work with so many amazing people, from the engineers all the way through to the flight test folks. I really don’t look back and regret anything.
I enjoyed my time in the Navy. It was amazing. And I am fortunate to be able to continue to support the warfighter wearing the orange flight suit at Northrop Grumman.
Learn more about career opportunties for veterans at Northrop Grumman