Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner: Wikis


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Perimeter Aviation C-FUZY SA226-TC Metro II over Winnipeg, Manitoba c. 2007
Role Regional airliner
Manufacturer Fairchild
First flight August 26, 1969
Introduced 1972
Status Currently in use
Primary users Ameriflight
Bearskin Airlines
Perimeter Aviation
Sharp Airlines
Produced 1968-2001
Number built 600+
Developed from Swearingen Merlin
Variants C-26 Metroliner

The Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner or the Fairchild Aerospace Metro is a 19-seat, pressurised, twin turboprop airliner first produced by Swearingen Aircraft and later by Fairchild at a plant in San Antonio, Texas, United States.

Design and development

The Metroliner was an evolution of the Swearingen Merlin turboprop-powered business aircraft. Ed Swearingen, a Texas fixed base operator (FBO), started the developments that led to the Metro through gradual modifications to the Beechcraft Twin Bonanza and Queen Air business aircraft, aircraft he dubbed Excalibur.

Then a new fuselage (but with a similar nose) and vertical fin were developed, married to salvaged and rebuilt (wet) Queen Air wings and horizontal tails, and Twin Bonanza landing gear; this became the SA26 Merlin, more-or-less a pressurized Excalibur. Through successive models (the SA26-T Merlin IIA and SA26-AT Merlin IIB) the engines were changed to Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 and then Garrett TPE331 turboprops. These were marketed as business aircraft seating eight to ten passengers.

An all-new aircraft was built and called the SA226-T Merlin III with new nose, wings, landing gear, cruciform horizontal tail[1] and inverted inlet Garrett engines. Ultimately a stretch of the Merlin III was designed, sized to seat 22 passengers and called the SA226-TC Metro. Because FAA regulations limited an airliner to no more than 19 seats if no flight attendant was to be carried, the aircraft was optimized for that number of passengers. The standard engines offered were two TPE331-3UW turboprops driving three-bladed propellers. A corporate version called the SA226-AT Merlin IVA was also marketed and initially sales of this version were roughly double that of the Metro.[2]

Prototype construction of the Metro began in 1968 and first flight was on August 26, 1969. Swearingen Aircraft encountered financial difficulties at this stage, and late in 1971 Fairchild (which was marketing the Metro[3] and building its wings and engine nacelles), bought 90% of Swearingen and the company was renamed Swearingen Aviation Corporation. It was at this point that the previously cash-strapped company was able to put the Metro into production.[4][5][6]

In 1974, the original Metro models were replaced by the SA226-TC Metro II after about 20 Metros and about 30 Merlin IVAs had been built.[7] Among the changes made were larger, squared-oval windows and optional provision for a small Rocket-Assisted Take Off (RATO) rocket in the tail cone, this being offered to improve takeoff performance out of "hot & high" airfields in the event of an engine failure.

The Metro and Metro II were limited to a maximum weight of 12,500 pounds (5,670 kg) in the USA and 5,700 kg in "metric" countries. When this restriction was lifted the Metro II was re-certified as the Metro IIA in 1980 with a maximum weight of 13,100 pounds (5,941 kg) and the Metro II's TPE331-3 engines replaced by -10 engines of increased power.

VH-EEO, a purpose-built SA227-AT Expediter freighter (without cabin windows) in service with Pel-Air c. 2007
Jetcraft Aviation SA227-AT Merlin IVC freighter conversion VH-UZA in service, Australia c. 2007

The SA227-AC Metro III was next, also initially certified in 1980 at up to 14,000 pounds (6,350 kg) this increasing to 14,500 pounds (6,577 kg) as engines and structures were upgraded. An option to go as high as 16,000 pounds (7,257 kg) was offered. Externally, improvements incorporated into the Metro III were a 10 ft (3.05 m) increase in wing span, four-bladed props, redesigned "quick-access" engine cowlings and numerous drag-reducing airframe modifications, including landing gear doors that close after the gear is extended.

Once again a corporate version was offered as the Merlin IVC (the model name was chosen to align with the contemporaneous short-fuselage Merlin IIIC). A version with strengthened floors and the high gross weight option was offered as a cargo aircraft known as the Expediter. Both the Expediter and the Merlin IVC were designated the SA227-AT. Finally, due to reliability problems with Garrett engines in the second half of the 1980s, the Metro IIIA was offered with two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-45R turboprops in place of the Garrett units; however none were actually delivered.[8] A special model was the SA227-BC Metro III built for Mexican airline AeroLitoral, which took delivery of 15 of the 18 of this model that were produced.

Improvements beyond the Metro III provided better systems, more power and a further increase in takeoff weight. This design effort resulted in the SA227 CC (for Commuter Category) and SA227-DC models, initially called the Metro IV[8] then renamed Metro 23, so named as they were designed for certification under FAR Part 23 (Amendment 34) standards. A Metro 23 EF with an external pod under the lower fuselage for greater baggage capacity was also offered as well as an Expediter 23 and Merlin 23. The SA227-CC was an interim model with TPE331-11U engines and only a handful were built.[6][9]


Further development

In the 1960s Swearingen Aircraft developed a prototype SA-28T eight-seat jet aircraft with a flapless delta wing.[3][10] It shared the tail and cockpit with the Merlin/Metro. The two engines were to be Garrett TFE731 turbofans then in development;[11] they were originally to be mounted on the aft fuselage, however during the course of design work their location was moved to under the high-mounted wing.[12] Early flights were to be undertaken with General Electric CJ610 engines fitted. Development continued after Fairchild acquired the company,[13] but the project was shut down nine weeks from first flight. It was later cut up as scrap and the fuselage used as a Metro display at trade shows.[citation needed]

At the 1987 Paris Air Show, Fairchild released details of proposed developments of the Metro designated the Metro V and Metro VI. These versions would have featured a longer fuselage with a taller "stand-up" cabin providing 69 in (180 cm) of interior height for passengers; a redesigned, longer wing; engines moved further out on the wing from the fuselage; a "T-tail" and various system improvements. A Merlin V corporate version of the Metro V was also planned. The Metro V was to be fitted with the same engines as the Metro 23 and the Metro VI was to be fitted with more powerful TPE331-14 engines.[8][14] The Metro VI was shelved within months of being announced due to a lack of customer interest,[15] but Fairchild did not proceed with the Metro V either.

One version that did see the light of day was the Metro 25, which featured an increased passenger capacity of 25 at the expense of the baggage space found in earlier models; the deletion of the left rear cargo door and the addition of a passenger door on the right-hand rear fuselage; and a belly pod for baggage. A Metro III was converted as a Metro 25 demonstrator, it flew in this configuration in October 1989.[16] Also mooted but not built was the Metro 25J, which would have been another jet-powered aircraft with TFE731s in over-wing pods.[14]

The type certificates for Metro and Merlin aircraft are currently held by M7 Aerospace.

Operational history

Bearskin Airlines C-FXUS SA227 CC model, Winnipeg c.2007
One of the advantages of the Perimeter Aviation modifications was using a four-bladed propeller that was less susceptible to stone chips on gravel runways

Two of the original Metro model were delivered in 1972 to Societe Miniere de Bakwanga (MIBA) in Kinshasa, Zaire, the first customer to put the Metro into service. The first airline to put them into service was Commuter Airlines in January 1973,[5] followed shortly after by Air Wisconsin.

At least one Metro IIA flies in Canada with Perimeter Aviation.[17] Two SA227-CCs are today registered with Canadian operator Bearskin Lake Air Service Ltd.,[18] while another two are operating in New Zealand.[19] A fifth also flew with Bearskin Airlines but was destroyed in a mid-air collision in 1995.[20]

In service with Perimeter Aviation in Canada, this long-term operator of the Metro II made a number of modifications to suit its use in northern and remote Canadian sites where rudimentary gravel "strips" were common. Some of the many innovative changes to the design of the Metro allowed the aircraft to fly more efficiently as well as cutting down on the "noise factor" that was attributed to the early models. The airline installed Garrett engines with quieter and more efficient four-bladed Hartzell propellers. Their Metros are also all equipped with modern avionics suites including certified AlliedSignal KLN 90B GPS.

Many of the improvements resulting in the Metro 23 came about during work to produce the military C-26B model for the United States Air Force.

In civilian service the type has proved to be popular, with sales in the 19-seat airliner market rivalled only by the Beech 1900.[21] It is especially popular in Australia. Since the first example (a Merlin IVA) arrived in 1975, almost 20% of the fleet has operated in that country. As of December 2008, 61 Metros and Expediters are registered in Australia, more than all of its market rivals combined.[22]

Metro production ended in 1998, however by this time Regional Jets were in vogue and turboprop types were out of favour with airlines, and several airframes remained unsold at the factory. The final aircraft, Metro 23 c/n DC-904B, was not delivered (to air charter company National Jet Aviation Services of Zelienople, Pennsylvania) until 2001.[5] A total of 703 Metro, Expediter, Merlin IV series and C-26 series aircraft were built.[6] To add to the confusion, 158 other SA226 and SA227 series aircraft were built as short-fuselage Merlin IIIs, IIIAs and IIIBs (123 SA226-Ts, of which 31 were Merlin IIIBs built with assigned C/Ns intermingled with those of Metro IIs), and Merlin IIICs and 300s (35 SA227-TTs, of which 25 were IIICs and 10 were 300s; again with assigned C/Ns intermingled with Metros, in this case Metro III/Merlin IVCs). In addition, three SA226-ATs were converted on the production line as SA226-TCs; four SA226-TCs were similarly converted as SA226-ATs; and one short-fuselage SA227-TT was converted as a long-fuselage SA227-AC. These eight aircraft each had two different constructor's numbers of various model names.

SA226 Series

Perimeter Aviation C-FTNV SA226-TC Metro II landing at Tadoule Lake, Manitoba c.2006
  • 198 SA226-TC Metro and Metro II
  • 56 SA226-AT Merlin IVA

SA227 Series

  • 291 Metro III
    • 273 SA227-AC (11 to US Armed Forces as C-26As)
    • 18 SA227-BC (3 to US Armed Forces as C-26Bs)
  • 43 SA227-AT
    • 21 Merlin IVC
    • 22 Expediter
  • 115 Metro 23
    • 5 SA227 CC
    • 110 SA227-DC (37 to U.S. Armed Forces as C-26Bs)


VH-KDO, a Metro 23 of Australian regional airline Regional Express (REX). The REX Metros have since been sold or transferred to subsidiary company Pel-Air.


  • Metro
  • Metro II
  • Merlin IVA
  • Metro III
  • Merlin IVC
  • Metro 23
  • Metro 23EF



Bearskin Airlines C-FFZN SA227-AC Metroliner operating out of Red Lake, Ontario, c. 2007

Civil operators

In August 2009 a total of 364 Fairchild Metro/Merlin aircraft (all variants) remained in airline service. Major operators include:

Some 70 other airlines also operate smaller numbers of the type.[23]

Military Operators

 El Salvador
 South Africa
 Trinidad and Tobago

Accidents and incidents

  • On 12 June 1980 a Metro II operating as Air Wisconsin Flight 965 suffered engine failure following massive water ingestion during a thunderstorm; the crew lost control and crashed near Valley, Nebraska. Both crew members and 11 passengers died, two passengers survived with serious injuries.[25]
  • A Fairchild Metro III operating as Trans-Colorado Airlines Flight 2286 under the Continental Express brand, crashed near Bayfield, Colorado on January 19, 1988. Both crew members and seven of the 15 passengers died. Of the surviving passengers only one received no injuries.[26]
  • On 8 February 1988 a Metro III operating as Nürnberger Flugdienst Flight 108 suffered a lightning strike, following which the electrical system failed. The right wing separated from the aircraft during an uncontrolled descent and the aircraft disintegrated and crashed near Kettwig, Germany. Both crew members and all 19 passengers died.[27]
  • SkyWest Airlines Flight 5569, operated with a Metro III, collided with USAir Flight 1493 on February 1, 1991, killing the 10 passengers and two crew members on the Metro.
  • Propair Flight 420, a Metro II flying from Dorval International Airport (now Montreal-Trudeau International Airport) to Peterborough Airport in Peterborough, Ontario on June 18, 1998, experienced a wing/engine fire during the initial climb. It attempted an emergency landing at Mirabel, but crashed near the runway threshold, in part due to a landing gear failure. The two pilots and the nine passengers on board were killed.[28]
  • A Metro III operating a cargo flight as Airwork Flight 23 broke up in mid air and crashed near Stratford, New Zealand on 3 May 2005. Both crew members died.
  • A Transair Metro 23 crashed near Lockhart River, north of Cooktown, Queensland in Australia on May 7, 2005. A total of 15 people died in what is as of December 2009, the worst airline crash in Australia since the 1960s.[29][30]

Specifications (Metro III)

Interior cabin

Data from The Encyclopedia of World Aircraft[31]

General characteristics

  • Crew: Two (pilot & first officer), 1 pilot in cargo only configuration
  • Capacity: 19 passengers or a cargo volume of 143.5 ft³ (4.06 m³)
  • Length: 59 ft 4 in (18.09 m)
  • Wingspan: 57 ft 0 in (17.37 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 8 in (5.08 m)
  • Wing area: 310 ft² (28.71 m²)
  • Empty weight: 8,737 lb (3,963 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 14,500 lb or 16,000 lb, depending on model (6,577 kg or 7,257 kg)
  • Powerplant:Garrett AiResearch TPE-331 [32] turboprops with continuous alcohol-water injection (AWI), 1,000 shp (dry), 1,100 shp (with AWI) (745.5 kW, 820 kW) each
  • Propellers: four-bladed McCauley 4HFR34C652 or Dowty Rotol R.321/4-82-F/8 [33]


See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists



  1. ^ This and subsequent Merlin and Metro models have a trimmable horizontal stabilizer (THS) usually used on jet aircraft, one of only a small number of turboprop aircraft to have this design feature (the competing Beechcraft Model 99 being another).
  2. ^ Based on production dates in the Metro production list accessed via fortunecity.com.
  3. ^ a b Fricker, John. "At the NBAA Convention, Part 2 - the turboprop types", Flight International, October 16, 1969, p. 595 (online archive version). Retrieved: December 15, 2008.
  4. ^ "Fairchild to Acquire Swearingen", "World News", Flight International, November 11, 1971, p. 751 (online archive version). Retrieved: December 15, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c "Final Metro Delivery." Airways magazine Vol. 8, No. 4; Issue 64, June 2001, p. 32. Airways International Inc. ISSN 1074-4320.
  6. ^ a b c Turboprop Production Lists Home Page Metro production list accessed via this site 25 August 2007.
  7. ^ The article "Final Metro Delivery" in Airways magazine Issue 64 states that Metro deliveries totalled 18. The Metro production list shows that by the end of 1974, 22 Merlins had been built. However a photo on Airliners.net (here) of the 33rd Merlin IVA built (Fairchild c/n AT-038), shows it to have the earlier round windows.
  8. ^ a b c "Metro IV & V", Commuter Aircraft Directory, Flight International, 7 May 1988, p. 47 (online archive version). Retrieved: December 15, 2008
  9. ^ FAA SA227-CC/-DC Type Certificate. Retrieved: 15 December 2008
  10. ^ "Aeronews", Air Progress magazine, July 1969, pp. 19–20.
  11. ^ "Aero Engines 1970", Flight International, January 1, 1970, p. 15 (online archive version). Retrieved: December 15, 2008.
  12. ^ "Hanover review - General-aviation postscript", Flight International, May 7, 1970, p. 761 (online archive version). Retrieved: December 15, 2008.
  13. ^ "Swearingen production restarts", Air Transport: Light Commercial and Business, Flight International, March 2, 1972, p. 318 (online archive version). Retrieved: December 15. 2008.
  14. ^ a b "Fairchild Dornier Metro" - Forecast International.com. Retrieved: 15 December 2008
  15. ^ ""NBAA Report - Fairchild launches Metro IV and V", Flight International, October 17, 1987, p. 20 (online archive version). Retrieved: December 15, 2008.
  16. ^ "Fairchild unveils new 25-seat Metro variant", Flight International, October 28, 1989, p. 16 (online archive version). Retrieved: December 15, 2008.
  17. ^ Transport Canada Canadian civil aircraft registeronline search conducted August 27, 2007, using "TC-343" (the Fairchild c/n of a Metro IIA formerly registered in Australia) in the Serial No. field.
  18. ^ Canadian civil aircraft register online search conducted 25 August 2007, using "SA227 CC" in the Model Name field.
  19. ^ List of SA227-CCs registered in New Zealand. Retrieved: December 15, 2008.
  20. ^ Aviation Safety Database. Retrieved: August 26, 2007.
  21. ^ The long-fuselage SA226/SA227 series has slightly outsold the Beech 1900 series but many were built as Merlin corporate aircraft. The similarly-sized de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter has outsold both types but is a different class of aircraft.
  22. ^ Online searches of the CASA Australian civil aircraft register for Metros, Beech 1900s, Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirantes etc. conducted on 15 December 2008.
  23. ^ Flight International 2009 World Airliner Census retrieved 2010-03-19
  24. ^ Several Metro IIs are used as training aids for instructing aircraft technicians serving in the Australian Defence Forces. They are owned by the RAAF but did not fly in ADF service
  25. ^ "National Transportation Safety Board - Air Wisconsin Flight 965" Retrieved: January 1, 2010.
  26. ^ "Trans-Colorado Airlines, Inc., Flight 2286 Fairchild Metro III, SA227 AC, N68TC Bayfield, Colorado I, January 19, 1988", National Transportation Safety Board. Retrieved: April 11, 2008.
  27. ^ Aviation Safety Database D-CABB accident synopsis. Retrieved: January 1, 2010.
  28. ^ Aviation Safety Database C-GQAL accident synopsis.
  29. ^ Summary of Australian Transport Safety Bureau accident report into the crash of Metro 23 VH-TFU Retrieved: April 11, 2008.
  30. ^ Price, Sarah, and Mark Todd. "15 killed in our worst air crash in 36 years." Sydney Morning Herald website. Retrieved: April 11, 2008.
  31. ^ Donald 1997, p. 388.
  32. ^ -11U-601G, -611G or -612G depending on propeller fitted
  33. ^ "Metro III UK Type Certificate." Retrieved: August 25, 2007.


  • Donald, David, general editor. Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Etobicoke, ON: Prospero Books, 1997. ISBN 1-85605-375-X.
  • Endes, Günter. "Fairchild (Swearingen) Metro/Merlin". The Illustrated Directory of Modern Commercial Aircraft. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing Company, 2001. ISBN 0-7603-1125-0.
  • Frawley, Gerard. "Fairchild Dornier Metro II, III & 23". The International Directory of Civil Aircraft. Canberra: Aerospace Publications Pty. Ltd., 1997. ISBN 1-875671-26-9.
  • Palmer, Trisha, ed. "Swearingen Metro and Metro II/III". Encyclopedia of the World's Commercial and Private Aircraft. New York: Crescent Books, 2001. ISBN 0-517-362856.
  • R.W.Simpson, Airlife's General Aviation, Airlife Publishing, England, 1991, ISBN 1 85310 104 X

External links


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