She was born in Barnstaple in north Devon. She was born on the day before that of Jo Salter, the RAF's first female fast-jet pilot. She was brought up in Hornchurch, near Essex. She has an older brother and two younger brothers.
She began training with the RAF as a navigator (on multi-engined aircraft) on Monday 18 September 1989 at RAF Finningley, when a Pilot Officer and aged 21, with Pilot Officer Sally Hawkins from Wolverhampton, aged 20, and Flying Officer Wendy Smith from Bournemouth, aged 25. They trained on the twin-engined HS 125, for many years with the RAF for training pilots and navigators on multi-engined aircraft.
From June 2010 to July 2012 she was the Officer Commanding of 54(R) Squadron at RAF Waddington in North Kesteven, Lincolnshire; at the time, she was the only female commander of an RAF squadron. In 2011 she flew with 907 Expeditionary Air Wing.
She works with the Royal Air Force Winter Sports Association, and RAF Swimming. She was promoted from Flight Lieutenant to Squadron Leader on 1 January 2003, to Wing Commander on 1 July 2008, and to Group Captain on 9 October 2017.
During the RAF100 Celebrations in 2018, Group Captain Houghton served as the Parade Commander outside Buckingham Palace.
Deployment of women with the RAF
At first, women were to be allowed as pilots and navigators on transport aircraft, such as the Hercules, and helicopters, but not fast-jet aircraft. On 16 December 1991, it was announced that women could fly in fast-jet aircraft too.
Involvement in the Royal Air Force Air Cadets
She currently serves as the Honorary President of No.1483 (Brentwood) Squadron of Essex Wing RAFAC.
- Nikki Thomas (from Exmouth), the first female Wing Commander with the RAF, and the first female commander of a fast jet squadron (12 Squadron at RAF Marham)
- "Anne-Marie HOUGHTON - Personal Appointments (free information from Companies House)". beta.companieshouse.gov.uk.
- "British Military Aviation in 1991". Royal Air Force Museum. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
- "London Gazette" (PDF).
- The Times, Tuesday 18 September 1989, page 5
- The Times, 6 June 1991, Appointments
- Milestones in the RAF[permanent dead link]
- "1991". www.rafmuseum.org.uk.
- "2003 Promotion" (PDF).
- "2008 Promotion" (PDF).
- "2017 Promotion" (PDF).
- "No. 63218". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2020. p. N7.
- Ward, Victoria (9 January 2015). "First woman to command an RAF fast jet squadron named as Wing Commander Nikki Thomas" – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
- "RAF 2015". Archived from the original on 1 April 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2017.