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DALLAS – Today in Aviation, the prototype Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner took to the skies for the first time in 1969.
The Texas-built Metroliner is a 19-seat pressurized airliner. Powered by two Garrett turboprop engines, it has a range of 1,100 km.
Conceived as an evolution of the manufacturer’s 9-seater Merlin, the construction of the prototype began in 1968.
The passenger variant entered service with Broome County-based Commuter Airlines in January 1973.
However, Swearingen was struggling financially and the viability of the program was brought into doubt. A white knight, in the form of Fairchild Aviation Corporation, stepped in a purchased 90% of the company.
The prototype model would go on to be replaced by the SA226-TC Metro II. It had larger windows and improved “hot and high” performance. This came in the form of an optional provision for a Rocket-Assisted Take Off (RATO) rocket, located in the aircraft’s tail.
The Metro II was followed by the SA227-AC Metro III in 1980. This variant had upgraded engines and structural improvements, giving it a higher max take-off weight (MTOW).
Production ended in 1998 after 714 airframes had been built.
Featured image: Swift Air Hellas Fairchild SA-227AC Metro III SX-BMT. Photo: John Leivaditis/Airways