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 long nose is one of the typical characteristics of the Swearingen/Fairchild Metroliner. The cockpit windows are a leftover of the Swearingen Merlin II.

The cruciform tail has the horizontal stabilisers attached to the dorsal fin, rather than the vertical stabiliser itself, also a key feature of the Metroliner.

Different versions

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.

Originally, the long Merlins and Metros has round cabin windows, as is clearly visible on this photo of an SA226AT Merlin IV.

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.

The engine nacelles of the SA226TC (and SA226AT) have a typical secondary intake at the bottom. Also the gear doors are extended when the gear is down.

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.

Redesigned nacelles, four blade prop and a longer wing span are the main features of the SA227AC Metro III. Also note the small wing fences in the leading edge, just below the Aeronova titles.

The designation SA227AT was not only used for the Merlin IVC corporate aircraft, but also the Expediter, the dedicated cargo version.

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.

The only noticable difference on the SA227DC Metro 23, shown here, is the cut-off rear corner of the nose gear doors.

C-26E is a modernised version of the C-26B, both a US military version of the SA227DC. They don't have the same nose gear doors as the civil version.

This photo better shows the typical nose gear doors of the Metro 23.

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.

Here is an example of what an RC-26B could look like: with a large pod under the fuselage. (photo: USAF/WikiMedia)


The third SA227AC of the Swedish air force was used as a testbed for the Erieye AEW antenna. Its designated was Tp88C. 

The Tp88C of the Swedish air force was an SA227AC testbed for the Erieye AEW system, that was later placed on the Saab 340.

Confusion possible with

Swearingen/Fairchild Merlin III


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.

British Aerospace Jetstream

jetstream 32

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.

British Aerospace Jetstream 41

jetstream 41

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.

Embraer EMB110 Bandei­rante


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.

Beech 99

beech 99a

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.

Swearingen/Fairchild Merlin II


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.