(Fairchild) Swearingen Metro


The Metro was a follow on to Ed Swearingen's successful Merlin executive aircraft. The development followed on from the Merlin, which dates back to 1964. The Merlin IIA was flown on April 13, 1965, and after certification deliveries commenced in August 1966. The follow on, the Merlin IIB appeared in June 1968. Development then began on the Merlin III. At the same time as the executive aircraft was in development. Swearingen were looking at the Metro. Aimed at third-level airlines in the US, it was designed as a 20-seater within the 5,675kg (12,500lb) gross limit for commuter aircraft. It was similar to the Merlin III with a lengthened fuselage. The prototype, designated SA226-TC first flew in Texas on August 26, 1969. Certification followed in June the following year. The long thin fuselage with two abreast seating and a central aisle has earned it the nickname 'Flying Pencil'. The Merlin IV which followed was essentially an executive version of the Metro.

Fairchild Industries, which had been involved in producing components for Swearingen acquired Swearingen in November 1971, operating the aircraft manufacturer as a subsidiary, Swearingen Aircraft Company. The aircraft have subsequently been known as 'Fairchild Swearingen'. Production of the Metro I began in 1972. In 1975 the Metro II was announced. This incorporated a revised cockpit, increased soundproofing and some system improvements. A cargo variant, the Metro IIC followed, and in 1976 the Metro IIE for the executive market. The Metro III was announced in 1981, featuring increased wingspan, more powerful engines, cleaned up nacelles, Dowty four-blade propellers, a higher MTOW, and revised undercarriage doors which closed with the gear down.. A P&W PT6A-45R powered version was designated the Metro IIIA

A number of Metros have been operated in New Zealand. A Metro III (N1014T c/n 432) was brought to New Zealand in August 1981 (the aircraft had only been built in June) as a demonstrator for the Chathams run. The first operator was Air Albatross using older model Metros. The company had started with Cessna 402s on the Cook Strait route in 1981, and introduced the Metro in 1984 as it expanded operations following air service deregulation. These carried 17 passengers and operated initially on the Wellington-Nelson-Blenheim routes. Four (SWA-SWD) were used as the routes expanded, and a fifth (VH-EEF) was allocated ZK-SWE, but this was not delivered so the registration was not taken up. The company went into voluntary liquidation in December 1985 and the aircraft were subsequently exported. The usefulness of the type had been shown however, and as air operations were deregulated, several other operators have imported Metros to service their routes.

The current operators (as at November 1, 1999) are Air Nelson (6), Eagle Air (6), Air Chatham (1), and Airwork (NZ) Ltd (6). The later currently provide Metros for Origin Pacific who introduced them to their operation in June 1999, and for Air Ambulance services. Currently operated aircraft include:

Previously operated aircraft include:

Last Update:- 2 December, 1999

Technical Data

Data is for the Metro III


NZ Post - starboard front quarter - airshow 92 Air Nelson - side view - Taupo 1997 Air Nelson - starting up - Taupo 1997

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