Jim began his career as a Naval Aviator aboard the USS John F Kennedy, flying the A-7 Corsair. In his second tour, he was a test pilot in the F/A-18 Hornet. Jim has logged 345 arrested landings aboard aircraft carriers, and he has flown 20 different types of air and space vehicles throughout his career.
In 1984, Jim was selected to join NASA in its tenth group of astronauts. Over his twenty-year career, he flew six times on the Space Shuttle. The five-time commander flew two missions to the Russian Space Station, Mir, and two missions to the International Space Station. In 1998, he was appointed as director, Flight Crew Operations, specifically selected to improve the flight and ground safety in the astronaut corps.
Bringing his experience from the aerospace industry as a former NASA executive and astronaut, Jim joined the oil and gas Industry as a Safety and Operations Auditor for BP Corporation North America, Inc. As the VP, Operating Leadership, Jim helped to improve operating results consistently over the long-term, by emphasizing effective leadership behaviors to inspire people to perform with operating excellence.
Jim is the author of Controlling Risk--In a Dangerous World. Currently, he operates Jim Wetherbee LLC while advising, and learning from, companies involved in hazardous operations.
Lifetime Member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots (from Dec. 1983);
Honorary Member, Musicians' Union, Local 47, American Federation of Musicians, Los Angeles, CA;
US Astronaut Hall of Fame (inducted 2010);
Inducted in the Long Island Air and Space Hall of Fame (2014), Cradle of Aviation Museum;
Inducted as a member in The Golden Eagles (2019), Naval Aviation Association.
US Navy: Two Defense Superior Service Medals; Distinguished Flying Cross; Two Defense Meritorious Service Medals; Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal; Two National Defense Service Medals; Navy Achievement Medal; Two Meritorious Unit Commendations.
NASA: Four Distinguished Service Medals; Six Space Flight Medals; Two Outstanding Leadership Medals; Flight Achievement Award, American Astronautical Society, 1995 (STS-63); Flight Achievement Award, American Astronautical Society, 1998 (STS-86).
- Controlling Risk—In A Dangerous World
How should executives and managers inspire their employees to be more productive—and simultaneously prevent their next accident, even if unpredictable? On the front lines of danger, operators face hazards and make life-and-death decisions in dynamic complex situations. They are the last line of defense. What happens if they don’t succeed? After accidents, organizations typically issue new rules. These will work—for a while—in preventing similar accidents. But accidents are rarely simple. A company may be blind-sided by another accident that no one thought would occur. Again, new rules are issued and procedures are updated—yet the cycle of accidents continues. Organizations and operators must need something more than rules-based procedures. Since the beginning of the space program, astronauts have developed techniques based on the principles of operating excellence to execute missions and stay alive in unforgiving environments. These principles-based techniques can supplement rules-based procedures to optimize performance in high-risk operations, and accomplish more in our dangerous world—or out of this world!
- The Ten Common Adverse Conditions in Organizations That Failed to Prevent the Next Accident
Based on observations, discussions, and assessments, Jim will present the list of ten common conditions that existed in various organizations before they experienced major disasters or minor accidents. In the sociotechnical system used to control risk, improve performance, and accomplish goals, five of these ten adverse conditions existed on the technical side, and five were on the social side. By turning hindsight into foresight, good leaders can use the presence and severity of these adverse conditions as indicators to determine if their organization is drifting toward a disaster.
- The Inside Story of Apollo 8
Hear stories from the first time in Earth’s four and a half billion year history when three men got up one morning—and left. Who was responsible for the decision to send men to the moon on that first flight? How do people make such decisions? Astronauts eagerly climb onto a rocket and live or die as a consequence of their own decisions. But what does it take to live with the decisions made in the Mission Control Center when other people live or die as a consequence? Since the beginning of the space program, astronauts have developed techniques, based on the principles of operating excellence, to make effective decisions and execute missions while staying alive in unforgiving environments. Hear how these principles-based techniques can be used to optimize performance in hazardous operations, business, and everyday life to help us accomplish much more in our dangerous world—or out of this world!