FARNBOROUGH - ASL Aviation Group, owner of Safair, the South African-based C-130 operator, has signed a letter of intent with Lockheed Martin for up to 10 LM-100Js, the commercial variant of the C-130J military airlifter.

First deliveries are expected in late 2018 pending the completion of FAA certification. “We started the FAA certification process at the beginning of this year and we expect it to go through the end of 2017,” says Orlando Carvalho, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics executive vice president.  “At which point we will enter the test period for validation, which will extend through 2018, so we are looking at first deliveries towards the end of that year.”

Lockheed is focusing on FAR Part 25 certification of the stretched version of the C-130J and says the commercial variant will be priced at around $65 million. “We have sold over 100 C-130s to commercial operators so the idea made a lot of sense to us. Right now our belief is at between 12 to 15 aircraft we will break even on the investment we are making,” Carvalho says.  “So we are pursuing it actively and we believe the market may be up in the order of around 300 aircraft.”

The LM-100J “is essentially a replacement” for the current Safair fleet of nine aging C-130s, says ASL Aviation Group chief executive Hugh Flynn. “What we are talking about with Lockheed is a gentle transition. We have been backing up the L-100 fleet with 737 Combis. But they can’t do what a Hercules can do, things like oil slick spraying and so on. In the long term the objective is to grow the fleet across [cargo] integrators, oil spill and humanitarian aid and relief.”