Fairchild (Swearingen) Metroliner & Merlin IV
Swearingen Aircraft developed this commuter aircraft at the end of the 1960s from the smaller SA26T Merlin II corporate turboprop, from which only the cockpit windows are a reminder. In the early 1970s the production and further development was taken over by Fairchild.
The Metro or Metroliner has a long slender fuselage with a circular cross section, beginning with quite a long nose. It has nearly rectangular cabin windows with rounded corners, in portrait mode. The tail is very typical with the horizontal stabiliser more attached to the dorsal fin than the vertical stabiliser. The two wheel main gear retracts forward in the nacelles. The nose gear also has two wheels and retracts forward in the nose.
The different versions of the Metroliner can be identified by looking at:
- the shape of the engine nacelles
- the visibility of the main gear doors
- the shape of the nose gear doors
- the shape of the cabin windows
- the number of propeller blades
- the presence of small wing fences
SA226AT Merlin IV & SA226TC Metro
Compared to the later versions the Merlin IV and Metro have round cabn windows, which makes them clearly distinguishable. However, the mutual differences are only on the inside, as the Merlin is a corporate version with a ore luxury interior than the Metro. Both versions have engine nacelles with extended main gear doors when the gear is down, a cooler intake at the bottom of the nacelle. The SA226AT and SA226TC have three blade props as standard, but modifications with four or five blade props are known.
SA226AT Merin IVA & SA226TC Metro II
During the first upgrade round Swearingen gave the SA226AT and SA226TC rounded rectangular cabin windows. For the rest they stayed externally the same. The models received other marketing names though, Merlin IVA for the corporate version and Metro II for the commuter aircraft.
On the Metro II the SA226TC got rounded rectangular cabin windows. Some SA226TCs have four blade propellers, as shown here, but they still have the SA226TC nacelle shape to recognise it from the Metro III.
SA227AC/SA227BC Metro III & SA227AT Merlin IVC
Together with the shortbody Merlin the long body aircraft got a major upgrade with the SA227 models. The main outside difference is in the nacelles, which are slimmer without the secondary intake below at the bottom and closed main landing gear doors. Additionally, the versions have four blade propellers (five after a modification) and a three metre wider wing span. While the latter may not be clearly visilbe, the SA227 models also have a small wing fence in the leading edge, at about 1.5 metres from the tip. The SA227AC and SA227BC are the Metro III commuter aircraft (only differening in engine version and power) and SA227AT the corporate version Merlin IVC. The latter designation is also used for the dedicated cargo version, marketed as Expediter. They have their cabin windows replaced by plugs. This also happens with cargo conversions of Metroliners, so there is no special recognision point of the Expediters.
C-26A is the US military designation for the SA227AC used by the USAF. The Swedish military also acquired the SA227AC and gave it designation Tp88A and Tp88B.
The redesigned SA227AC/SA227AT engine nacelles have no secondary air intake at the bottom, and gear doors that close again after the gear has been lowered. This makes their appearance more streamlined.
SA227CC & SA227DC Metro 23
The final generation of Metroliners was called the Metro 23, because they were certified under FAR part 23. They can have designation SA227CC and SA227DC, depending on the exact engine model and hence power. Most aircraft seems to have a cut-off rear corner on the nose landing gear doors, but we don't know if this is standard. At least, they do not appear on the C‑26B, the US military designation for this model. A part of the C-26Bs was later upgraded to C‑26E, with more modern avionics. Several other C-26Bs were transfered to the US Navy, got specialised avioncs and were then designated C-26D.
EC-26D, RC-26B, RC-26D & UC-26C
All these are special mission versions of the standard C-26. Their appearance can differ, but they all have additional antennas, and sometimes a pod under the middle of the fuselage. Most are converted C-26Bs, but the single UC-26C is a modified SA227AT Merlin IVC.
The third SA227AC of the Swedish air force was used as a testbed for the Erieye AEW antenna. Its designated was Tp88C.
Confusion possible with
The Merlin III was a short body development of the Metroliner, for the corporate market. It retains most characteristics of the long body variant, but has larger, landscape oriented cabin windows.
Falls in the same category as the Metroliner and has similar features, like a cruciform tail (but much smaller dorsal fin) and the engine nacelles. The Jetstream has a wider, shorter fuselage though, with oval cabin windows and more cockpit windows. The main gear has single wheels and retracts inward in the wings.
The Jetstream 41 is larger than the Metroliner and but aspects are even more alike than the Jetstream 31, in particular the two wheel main gears. The Jetstream 41 has oval cabin windows. Also different is the large wing-fuselage fairing.
The size is about the same as the Metroliner, as is the general configuration, but the Bandeirante has a regular tail, an all single wheel gear, different nacelles and rectangular cabin windows in landscape mode.
The Beech 99 is contemporary to the Metroliner, but smaller (shorter). It has square, non rounded cabin windows, a rearward retracting single wheel nose gear and a regular tail. The nacelles are also different.
Only the cockpit windows may remind you that this is an early predecessor of the Metroliner. The rest of the aircraft is quite different: tail, gear, nacelles and cabin windows.