Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, McGarvie graduated from San Francisco State College in 1966 as the Vietnam war was heating up. He joined the navy and went to Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola, FL.
After receiving his wings he reported to NAS (now MCAS) Miramar for training in the F-8 Crusader.
Following his second Vietnam cruise in F-8's he became an instrument instructor in TA-4's at Miramar before being released from active duty in 1971. He subsequently spent three years flying F-8's and the F-4 Phantom in the reserves.
McGarvie flew for Pacific Southwest Airlines and US Airways before opting for early retirement in 2000. He flew his first warbird in 1971-a Ryan PT-22 and is currently flying an SNJ-5 based at Gillespie Field in San Diego, CA and also flies his own Mooney. Jim also flies Classic Fighters' Corsair and The Rebel P-51, and he will soon fly Classic Fighters' T-33 Shooting Star.
In 2008, Jim qualified as a Navy Legacy Flight® pilot.