Group Captain Houghton joined the Royal Air Force in 1984. Following navigator training, David completed his first operational tour at RAF Lyneham flying C-130K aircraft. After a short tour as a simulator and ground school instructor on the Tornado F3 force, he completed a tour as a navigator instructor on HS125 Dominie aircraft before returning to the Hercules force in 1993. Following tours on 24 Squadron and 57 Squadron, the latter as a Flight Instructor, David was promoted to squadron leader in 1998 and completed a Flight Commander tour on 57 Squadron at RAF Lyneham. During his time on the C-130 force, David twice served in the Falkland Islands and took part in Operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone.