He didn’t know it at the time, but Capt. Jim Webb was preparing for his new role as chief pilot for Boeing Commercial Airplanes even as a child. The lessons he learned from his father and his natural love of airplanes set him on a path toward flight, leadership and relationship building.
Growing up in Atlanta, Webb was in the shadow of what has become one of the world’s busiest airports. Well before entering high school, he knew he wanted to fly. And, by the time he became a teenager, he knew his path toward that goal would take him to the Navy.
Webb earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering while attending Auburn University. From there he got a spot in flight school at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Subsequent transfers took him to Whiting Air Field and Naval Air Station in Meridian, Miss., where he received his wings in November 1988. He attended Navy Test Pilot School in 1995.
During his 26-year Navy career, Webb amassed more than 7,000 flight hours in 35 different aircraft. More than 4,000 of those hours were in the F/A-18 A through F models and included 662 carrier arrested landings. He studied at the Naval War College and earned a Master of Arts degree in national security and strategic studies.
A career at Boeing was a logical next step for Webb as he contemplated retirement from the Navy. In 2012 he retired as commanding officer at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia. He and his family relocated to the Puget Sound as he took on the role of production test pilot.
Webb continued his education earning a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Washington’s Foster School of business. He was promoted to lead pilot for 737 and assistant chief production pilot. In March 2018, he became chief pilot for the 737.
Like all of Boeing’s test pilots, Webb is qualified across a range of Boeing products including the 737, 767, 777, and 787 and is a qualified safety and photo chase pilot in the CT-133 aircraft.
Webb knows exactly what prepared him for both his Navy and Boeing careers.
“My father had such influence on me for integrity and quality work,” he said. “He taught me to take the time to do it right the first time. He also showed me how important it was to maintain integrity with people. I carry those lessons into everything I do and they really shaped how I approach everything from work to my family to my hobbies.” He and his wife have prioritized those same values in raising their five children.
It’s not surprising that integrity and quality are also his biggest priorities at work.
“The best part of my job, without a doubt, is the people,” said Webb. I got to see the talent and determination that the Boeing team brings to every project. And I get to work with our customers and see how they continue to push us be better. As an industry, I can see how we are all linked in this pursuit of safety, efficiency and quality.”
Webb thinks most people would be surprised at how broad the responsibilities are for a Boeing test pilot.
“What people don’t know is how we integrate so many aspects of the organization. We have to be at the top of our game,” he said.
“Of course the expectation is we know how to fly the airplanes and are experts in the systems. We also have to have an awareness of how the manufacturing system works, how the testing goes from beginning to end, the business aspects and the direct link between our customers and our products.”