Today, Lockheed Martin told Cargo Facts that its in-development LM-100J, the commercial variant of the C-130J “Super Hercules,” is closing in on the final phases of Federal Aviation Administration-specific flight tests.
Just a week or so of additional flying is required ahead of submitting a final series of test reports to the FAA, after which point Lockheed is expecting a quick turnaround for certification. The first delivery to launch operator Pallas Aviation, meanwhile, is expected by year-end.
In recent months, joint FAA/Lockheed Martin flight crews have been working through function and reliability (F&R) tests for the LM-100J. Unlike airworthiness tests, the objective of F&R testing is to evaluate the aircraft under conditions that resemble real-life operating conditions – which in the LM-100J’s case, are rigorous. In practice, test pilots have been flying the aircraft outside of daylight hours, and to airports at high elevations, such as Colorado Springs (COS) or Laramie (LAR) – both of which are well above 2,000 meters above sea level.
Flight tests are currently on hold by the FAA, as is customary for programs in development, but are expected to resume before the start of the Paris Air Show, which runs 17-23 June. Remaining flight hours can be logged in as few as seven to ten days once they restart, according to Steve Knoblock, the chief test pilot for the LM-100J program. Once testing is complete, Lockheed Martin will submit the final docket of test reports to the FAA for processing and hopes to receive the approval shortly thereafter.
For the LM-100J, although the aircraft has a clear target market, customers have yet to surface in large numbers. Texas-based Pallas Aviation placed a firm order for five units, and Lockheed has previously announced tentative commitments from Ireland-based ASL Aviation Group and Brazil-based Bravo Industries. Looking ahead, Lockheed expects an LM-100J flight simulator under construction adjacent to its Marietta, Georgia, assembly line to make it easier for prospective operators to train future flight crews.
Like its predecessors, the LM-100J is capable of operating in rugged terrain unsuitable for other commercial freighters – its “sweet spot” remains in outsized cargo transport for the oil & gas, mining and other heavy industries, said Tony Frese, VP of Business Development for the program. Current operators of the L-100 and niche carriers involved in outsized cargo transport are considering the new variant, which boasts refreshed engines and updated avionics that are ADS-B compliant, Frese said.