BBJ chief pilot retires after 25 years with Boeing

 - May 23, 2007, 1:21 PM

Making a final show appearance here is Boeing Business Jets chief pilot Capt. Mike Hewett, whose BBJ flight to EBACE saw him pass the 12,800 flying-hour mark (including more than 4,000 hours in the U.S. Navy flying mostly Grumman A-6 Intruders). He has pilot-in-command time on 24 types (including all Boeing jetliners except the original Model 707), and was authorized to fly North American F-86 Sabre and Northrop T-38 Talon flight-test chase aircraft.

Having decided at age 14 to become a U.S. Navy (USN) pilot, Hewett was bitten by the test-flying bug when watching Boeing’s Jack Waddell fly the Model 747 on its February 1969 maiden flight while in his senior year of college studying aeronautical engineering. He called Waddell seeking career advice, but was told to embark on a military flying career first, earn an aeronautical degree and come back 15 years later.

So Hewett did, entering Boeing flight test in 1982 after a job interview in which he reminded Waddell of their initial encounter. By then Boeing chief test pilot, Waddell told colleagues, “I can’t let the boy make a liar out of me–give him a job.”

Starting as a production test pilot, Hewett became type rated on the Boeing 737, 757, 767, 747-400 and 777 and Lockheed L1011 TriStar–the latter to enable him to collect 10 traded-in All Nippon Airways aircraft from Japan.

In 1986 he became 737-400 senior engineering test pilot and three years later moved up to be 737 program chief engineering test pilot. He also was assigned to 777 flight testing for a year of severe environmental testing, polar navigation and wing-load stress testing before joining Boeing Business Jets in 1998.

One outstanding memory is of having “pulled” 3.2g while recovering from a maximum-velocity dive in which he unintentionally reached 520 kias in a 737-400 following a flight-test engineering error. Hewett’s main regret is missing the “cut” after making the USN shortlist to fly the space shuttle.