I was in the REME, I’ll have you know


14th May 2024


14th May 2024

I grew up in the Space Race. Christmas presents were toy trains, racing cars, rockets and the Action Man Mercury capsule. My first “Saturday” job was working in the local garage - Tomlin’s on Icknield Way, Letchworth. According to Companies House, the business is still going with old George Tomlin’s boys listed as directors. I can’t imagine they are still working although the garage is still there as a franchised petrol station. I’ve been “techy” since then; I was paid in tools and experience as I learned to swear and spray in the pit and the paint shop. Not much later, I was in the REME, having completed basic training in the hot summer of 1976 at Arborfield.

Poperinghe Barracks, REME Depot

The Boeing B767 simulator installed in Edmonton.

Less than a decade later, I was a systems engineer, designing, building and installing flight crew training simulators, modelling and coding in Fortran and assembly language. I got the job principally on my REME credentials. The “ancillaries” section leader, Peter Mellor, having served in the RAF, understood what military service represents and valued it. I had learned COBOL whilst stationed at Middle Wallop and quickly picked up new languages in the dynamic environment of flight crew training devices, which was rapidly evolving. It was exciting to be able to “fly” these aircraft, with their high-resolution out-of-the-window visual systems and high-G hydraulic motion systems. I picked up a specialisation in the Boeing 757 and 767 EICAS system at the heart of systems management in the new “glass” cockpits, which took me all over the world.

Certification authorities like the CAA/FAA and JAA were exacting in their requirements but the prize we achieved was the accreditation for pilots to convert from one aircraft type to another without burning any fuel. I became a project manager whilst still in my 20’s and spent the next decade in various senior technical roles, landing at GEC-Marconi in Fife. That move turned out to have been a huge mistake, professionally speaking, resulting in a negotiated sabbatical in China that allowed me time and opportunity to set up my own software business. I studied with the Open University around this time and obtained my honours degree in physics and mathematics, which was fun and interesting and paved the way for me to earn a PGCE at Moray House.

Click image for bigger

Click image for bigger

By the time I closed down the business against hostile legislation from the Labour Government1, using things like php, SQL and some clever XSL transforms, I had written and documented award-winning and innovative software solutions (see screenshot) across Scotland. I brought all of those skills and attitudes to education when I became a teacher in 2004 and found them not particularly valued by employers – quite the opposite, in fact. Leaving that aside, I am proud to still be that techy person who grew up in the glory of the great achievements of the 1960s and made a few of my own. I’d like to think there are more to come.

Nick Hood CPhys FInstP MRAeS SFHEA


  1. IR35, recent reforms to which have been called “more damaging than COVID-19 or Brexit”↩︎