Data highlights the impact every extra year of a career can have on lifetime earnings. A first year First Officer earns an average of $59,970, not including per diem, health, retirement and other benefits, at 90 percent of the carriers in the Regional Airline Association (RAA), according to organization. If hired by a regional airline at age 28, by 35 the pilot can be flying for a major, and make captain in another eight years or less. At today’s pay scales, the average annual salary over the course of that captain’s career at American Airlines would be about $250,000; in later, peak earning years a senior captain “could easily make $400,000,” says Carey. This means that it could cost pilots $400,000 per year in lost earnings for every extra year it takes to complete training.