Lockheed Martin is in talks with a launch customer for certification and production of a commercial version of the C-130J Hercules military airlifter.

The LM-100J is intended to replace aging L-100 commercial Hercules aircraft now in civilian operation.

The C-130J was developed commercially and civil-certified, with the FAA acting as airworthiness authority in lieu of a military customer. The original transport-category certification, awarded in 1998 as an amendment to the L-100 type certificate, will now be updated to reflect changes to the aircraft.

“We have been authorized [by Lockheed Martin] to update the certification and offer the aircraft. We are in serious talks with customers,” says George Shultz, vice president and general manager for C-130 programs. The company sees a market for 75 aircraft.

The plan is to update the certification in parallel with building an aircraft for FAA flight-testing and subsequent delivery to the launch customer, “which we hope to sign up by early summer,” Shultz says, adding, “It takes us three years to build an aircraft.”

Lockheed delivered 115 L-100s between 1964 and 1992, of which 60 are still registered, according to Aviation Week Intelligence Network data. The aircraft are used to support operations such as oil-and-gas and mining, and carrying heavy equipment to austere locations.

“Recently several customers have come to us saying the aircraft is coming to the end of its life, and there is still a niche need. So we decided to update the certification baseline and market the aircraft commercially,” Shultz says.

The price will be in the “mid-60s” (in millions of dollars) for the baseline short-body LM-100J. “If they can establish the business case, price is not as important as life-cycle cost, which is significantly less than for the legacy L-100,” Shultz says.

When the C-130J received its baseline certification, the company did not see a strong market for commercial aircraft, Shultz says, so Lockheed elected not to continue working with the FAA to update the type certificate to reflect subsequent changes.

Certification has been maintained on the structure of the aircraft and on the Rolls-Royce AE2100 turboprops, which are commercial engines, but systems certification was not updated. “We have established a plan with the FAA to go system by system and identify all the changes,” he says.

“We will then go through the company records to see how they were tested and verified and if [the plan] complies with the FAA’s process. There is a lot of paperwork to be done,” Shultz says. “There will be some design changes to comply with new regulations, but they will be minor.”

An example is complying with Special Federal Aviation Rule 88 to eliminate ignition sources in fuel tanks, “for which there are devices available,” he says. Because of changes like this, the certification effort will culminate in “a small FAA test program.”

Of the L-100s still registered, AWIN data shows 38 are with commercial operators. The largest is U.S.-based Lynden Air Cargo with seven aircraft. Another eight are with U.S. government contractors Pepper Aviation and Prescott Support. South Africa’s Safair has six.

Shultz says there is government interest in the LM-100J for humanitarian and other missions. “There is also interest from commercial aviation in how it would fit into a hub-and-spoke operation,” he says. In the 1970s, Lockheed proposed several versions beyond the stretched L-100-30, but none materialized.