MIAMI – 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 Fairchild Swearinger Metroliner proved incredibly popular in the Australian market with 20% of airframes built operating here. Photo: Robert Frola (GFDL http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html or GFDL http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), via Wikimedia Commons

Financial Struggles


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). 

A C-26 Metroliner of the US Air Force pictured at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport in 2012 (Photo: Tomás Del Coro from Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Military Variant


The Metroliner also proved popular with the military. Known as the C-26, the type served with the US, Columbian, Mexican, Peruvian, Venezuelan, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados militaries. 

The passenger variant entered service with Broome County-based Commuter Airlines in January 1973.

Production ended in 1998 after 714 airframes had been built.


Featured image: Kendrick Dlima/Airways