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Money Management for First Officers

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
May, 2008
New Captain Series:  Becoming a Captain | Bag of Crap | The Model Captain | Money Management for First Officers

Congratulations on becoming a First Officer!

By now you should be out of training.  You're now a real pilot.  According to a youtube.com video, So You Want to be a Regional Airline Pilot?, that means your salary is:
Take Home
American Eagle 20,736 14,930
Delta Connection 17,100 12,312
Expressjet 19,800 14,256
PSA 19,152 13,789
Big Sky 18,720 13,478
United Express 20,700 14,904
United Express 20,424 14,705
Piedmont 20,736 14,930
Take Home
Gulfstream 17,712 12,753
Mesa 18,000 12,960
Island Air 
21,120 15,206
Pinacle 18,900 13,608
Mesaba 21,600 15,552
Midwest Connect 17,100 12,312
Great Lakes 13,500 9,720
Comair 21,600 15,552
Note: These are probably 2006 salaries and if not exact, then pretty close!  Take home pay is based on 28% tax rate.

Holy Crap Dude, You're Poor!

Well if that weren't the most obvious statement you've seen in your life...  To make you feel better, I pass along my series of tips on surviving poverty until you make it to 2nd year pay or that quick upgrade to ATP mins and Captainship.  This article could just as well serve as money management advice for struggling flight students.  I feel your pain regardless of which position you're in. I've been there.  So let's get started.


The most important task is eating.  You could end up taking a whole suit case of food if you're not careful.  But if you do take food with you on your trips, organize it in terms of refrigeration required.  Consider the following chart:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
  • Frozen Microwave Meals
  • Fresh Sandwiches
  • Airplane snacks     
  • Carots
  • PB&J Sandwiches
  • Salami, proscuitto,  hot-smoked salmon
  • Airplane snacks
  • Canned Tuna (Sandwiches)
  • Ready-to-eat canned
    meats, fruits and vegetables
  • Energy and granola bars
  • Cups of noodles
  • Trail mix: Raisins, Capn Crunch, Peanuts, etc
  • Salted cured or smoked meats
  • Hard cheeses - cheddars, swiss
  • Bread, crackers, etc.
  • Little Miss Chef entrees
  • Beef jerky
  • Airplane snacks

Airplane Food

There are a variety of options for airplane food.  Sometimes, full blown crew meals are available.  That option is rare.  Sometimes you can get creative with first class food.  For example, some creative flight attendants can make apple smores out of the Delta Biscoff cookies, apple slices, and twix bars.

And if you haven't heard, those Delta Biscoff cookies can be turned into Key Lime pie by just squeezing a Lime over the top.  Let it soak.  Enjoy your pie.  Lemon works great too.

Send me your suggestions...


1.  Get the cheapest crash pad you can find if you don't live in base.
2.  Live in base.
3.  Sleep at the airport.  For the best tips, see: Budget Traveller's Guide to Sleeping in Airports

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