THE LEGEND IS BACK IN THE SKY

Around two and a half years after its maiden flight, the Lockheed Martin LM-100J has received approval from the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Now nothing stands in the way of its worldwide commercial use. However, the cargo aircraft is not entirely new: The largely identical predecessor model was already in production between 1964 and 1992 at what was then the Lockheed factory in Marietta.
“These aircraft have slowly come to the end of their life span,” says Rod McLean, Vice President and General Manager of the Air Mobility & Maritime Missions division of the US industrial group Lockheed Martin. “Our customers have told us that the only replacement for an L-100 is an LM-100J,” says McLean, not without pride.

The roots of the new L-100 also go back to the legendary C-130 military transporter known as “Super Hercules”, which made a name for itself worldwide in particularly demanding transport operations. One of its particular specialties is taking off and landing even in remote locations without developed runways. The civil aviation sector quickly became aware of this ‘workhorse’ aircraft and Lockheed Martin developed a commercial version, which was launched as an L-100 transporter.

The prototype took off for the first time on 20 April 1964 for a flight of almost one and a half hours, and in mid-February 1965, the L-100 received its type certification. At the end of September 1965, American Continental Air Services (CASI), a subsidiary of Continental Airlines, received the first of 21 series production aircraft that were initially unmodified.

What is particularly remarkable is that on its maiden flight, the first L-100 series remained in the air for 25 hours and one minute – a world record for maiden flights, and in difficult conditions. To save fuel, the L-100 flew with only two of its four engines except for 36 minutes.

Lockheed Martin quickly followed up with larger and more powerful versions – the L-100-20 and L-100-30. Their customers included Delta Airlines, which used the L-100-20 on its cargo route network between 1968 and 1973.

Like its military brethren, this model has carried everything that ever has been or could be transported by air, according to Lockheed-Martin. Their records range from a complete circus to huge replacement engines, to live killer whales, disassembled helicopters and smaller aircraft.

“THE AIRCRAFT OF THE PREVIOUS MODEL HAVE SLOWLY COME TO THE END OF THEIR LIFE SPAN. OUR CUSTOMERS HAVE INFORMED US THAT THE ONLY REPLACEMENT FOR AN L-100 IS AN LM-100J.”

ROD MCLEAN, VICE PRESIDENT AND GENERAL MANAGER, AIR MOBILITY & MARITIME MISSIONS AT LOCKHEED MARTIN

In 1992, production was stopped, although according to the manufacturer, 35 of the 115 aircraft produced are still flying, and these are now to be gradually replaced by the new LM-100J. “Many of the airlines have been following the development of our new model very closely in order to draw up a business case for replacing their aging fleets,” says Marilou Franklin, who is responsible for the FAA type certification of the LM-100J at Lockheed Martin. “These customers appreciate the aircraft’s niche capability.”

And so, Lockheed Martin officially resumed its production program at the beginning of February 2014 – at that time still hoping to sell a total of 75 units of the revamped old model. The “package” also includes FAA-certified pilot training at the “Super Hercules” training center at Lockheed Martin’s Marietta site.

Technical specification

Length: 112 ft 9 in/34.37 m
Height: 38 ft 10 in/11.84 m
Wingspan: 132 ft 7 in/40.41 m
Horizontal tail span: 52 ft 8 in/16.05 m
Power Plant: 4 Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3,
GE-Dowty Aerospace R391, 6-blade propellers, all composite
Maximum take-off weight (2.5 g): 164,000 lb/74.389 kg

Payload (2.5 g)*: 150,000 lb/22.670 kg
Operating weight empty: 81,000 lb/36.740 kg
Zero fuel weight**: 131,000 lb/59.420 kg
Landing distance (135,000 lb): 3,100 ft/945 m
Range (40,000 lb payload): 2,390 nm/4425 km
Maximum cruise speed: 355 KTAS/660 km/h
*Higher payload allowable with wing relieving fuel
** Higher zero fuel weight allowable with wing relieving fuel

From the outside, you can certainly see the age of the new aircraft’s design, and the modern paintwork does not do much to help. Nevertheless, Lockheed promises significantly improved intrinsic values – with the help of new engines, they claim to have reduced fuel consumption by 14 percent compared to the previous model, with a 20 percent improvement in the payload-to-range ratio to boot. According to the data sheet, 50,000 lb/22,670 kilograms can now be transported on board, compared with around 1400 kilograms less on its predecessor. The on-board systems’ error messages and maintenance instructions are now automated; all the avionics are digital and also include a double head-up display for the cockpit crew. Carbon brakes provide deceleration on the ground.

The launch operator is Pallas Aviation, a cargo airline from Texas. The company has purchased the first two LM-100J transporters and stationed them at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth, ready for operation worldwide. The focus of Pallas’ activities is the transport of oversized and overweight cargo in areas with limited take-off and landing infrastructure – in keeping with the tradition of the “Super Hercules”.

According to Lockheed-Martin, three more units have already been sold, but the aircraft manufacturer is keeping quiet about the customer. However, the company is already distancing itself from its original goal of selling 75 units and is now only forecasting sales of 25 to 45 LM-100J.

YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

YouTube

By loading the video, you agree to YouTube's privacy policy.
Learn more

Load video

Text by Behrend Oldenburg
Photos: Lockheed Martin

Send this to a friend