MIAMI – Today in Aviation marks the 51st anniversary of the first flight of the Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner in 1969.

The Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner (formerly the Swearingen Metro and later the Fairchild Aerospace Metro) was a 19-seat, twin-turboprop, pressurized airliner first produced by Swearingen Aircraft and later by Fairchild Aircraft at its San Antonio, Texas facility.

Vee H Aviation VH-VEK Fairchild SA-227DC Metro 23 c:n DC-845B – Location- Da Vinci Blvd, Brisbane Airport. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Metroliner Origins

Gradual modifications to Swearingen Merlin’s Beechcraft Twin Bonanza and Queen Air business turboprop-powered business aircraft paved the way for the Metroliner. It was dubbed Excalibur by Ed Swearingen, the Texas fixed-base operator (FBO) who spearheaded the development of the type.

Construction of the Metro prototype began in 1968. At the end of 1971, Fairchild, which marketed the Metro and built its wings and engine nacelles, purchased 90% of Swearingen, renaming the company Swearingen Aviation Corporation.

According to Airways magazine Vol. 8, No. 4; Issue 64, June 2001, it was at this stage that the previously cash-strapped company was able to put the Metro into production.

An Australian air Express purpose-built SA227-AT Expediter freighter without cabin windows. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Initial Operations

In 1972, Societe Miniere de Bakwanga (MIBA) in Kinshasa, Zaire, received two of the original Metro model, the first customer to bring the Metro into service. Commuter Airlines became the first airline to bring them into operation in January 1973 followed by Air Wisconsin (ZW) shortly after.

It also went into service with Perimeter Aviation (YP) in Canada, a long-term operator of the Metro II and III. Perimeter modified the types using a four-bladed propeller that was less susceptible to stone chips on gravel runways.

Throughout Australia, the Metroliner has been especially popular. After the first Merlin IVA arrived in 1975, approximately 20% of the fleet has been based there. According to the CASA Australian civil aircraft registry, as of December 2008, 61 Metros and Expediters were registered in Australia, more than all of its industry rivals combined.

Production of the Metroliner ended in 1998.

Featured image: A Metro II converted for cargo with a large freight door on the left side at the rear. Photo: Wiki Commons.