Swearingen Merlin & Merlin IIA/B

Ed Swearingen was originally a designer for Beechcraft, where he was responsible for upgrades of the Twin Bonanza and Queen Air. When he started working for himself, he mated a new fuselage and tail to the wings and engines of the Queen Air, and gear of the Twin Bonanza, creating the Merlin. As the piston engines proved troublesome, the aircraft was soon equipped with turboprop engines and the Merlin II was born.

The Merlin has a fuselage with a circular cross section, but with quite a long nose. It has rectangular cabin windows with rounded corners and slightly curved edges, in landscape mode. The single wheel main gear, similar to that of the Beechcrafts, retracts forward in the nacelles. The nose gear also has one wheel and retracts rearward in the nose.

Different versions

The different versions of the Merlin can be identified by looking at:

  • the shape of the engine nacelles
  • the location of the exhausts

SA26 Merlin

The first of the Merlin family used the piston engines of Beech Queen Air, to which is it is similar. The Merlin however already has the distinctive cockpit and cabin windows of the whole Merlin and Metroliner series. Only one prototype was made, that was soon after converted to Merlin IIA.

The original SA26 Merlin had the piston engines of the Beech Queen Air.

SA26T Merlin IIA

While the SA26 has piston engines, the SA26T has PT6A turboprop engines. This engine has the intake below the spinner and an exhaust on both sides of the nacelles, just behind the spinner.

The Swearingen Merlin IIA clearly showing its mix of Beech Queen Air and Swearingen Merlin III elements.

A detail of the nacelle of the SA26T Merlin IIA. Note the exhaust at the side of the nacelle, just behind the prop spinner.

SA26AT Merlin IIB

The Merlin IIB is essentially an SA26T with TPE331 engines. This can be noticed by the location of the engine exhausts: the Merlin IIB a single exhaust near the wing leading edge.

Here is a full view of a Merlin IIB, with its TPE331 engines that have the exhaust further aft on the nacelle, close to the wing leading edge. (photo: Aeroprints/WikiMedia)

Confusion possible with

Swearingen/Fairchild Merlin III


The cockpit and cabin windows are clearly a reminder that this is a successor of the Merlin IIB. The rest of the aircraft is quite different: a longer nose, a cruciform tail, an all two wheel gear and modified nacelles.

Beech Queen Air

beech 99a

When you compare the landing gear, tail and wings of the Queen Air you'll see that they look the same as on the Merlin. The fuselage, in particular cockpit and cabin windows, is different though.

Piper PA-31T Cheyenne

tbm 850

The Piper Cheyenne has similar cabin windows as the Merlin, also a single wheel gear and the same basic configuration. However, the PA-31T has an inward retracting main gear and tip tanks.