Careers After the Navy: From the Navy to Northrop Grumman

Headshot of man in orange flight suit

We recently spoke to E-2D test pilot Nate Atkinson about exploring careers after the navy, his transition to civilian life and building 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.

Watch FLOW – The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Enhancement: Refuel in Air


Watch FLOW, a film that reveals how a tenacious team applied aerial refueling technology to turn the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye into an even more capable asset for our Navy customer.

The work of this dedicated team, which includes a former Navy aviator and a Navy pilot, resulted in the first in-flight fuel transfer from a tanker aircraft to an E-2D. For the warfighter, extended aircraft time in air can make all the difference. The ability to refuel in air to provide longer mission time is game changing.

Learn more about this important E-2D program milestone.


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