The Boeing 737 MAX has successfully completed its test flights in China, according to the manufacturer’s China President. China remains the last major market left to unground the type, a move that could see dozens of aircraft reactivated for Chinese airlines. Hopes are high that this approval could come before the end of the year.
Could the 737 MAX be ungrounded in China this year?
For Boeing, China remains the final frontier to have its flagship narrowbody 737 MAX approved to fly once again. While a handful of other national regulators are still debating the nuances of the aircraft, China is the last major market to follow the lead of the FAA. Its importance to Boeing cannot be understated, given the large number of MAX already in the country and the sizeable outstanding orders for the type.
Progress is being made, as August saw the aircraft undertaking test flights as the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) watched on. Reporting today in Reuters suggests that the test flights went well, with Boeing China President Sherry Carbary speaking on the sidelines of Airshow China saying,
“It went off without a hitch.”
Boeing has been working with the CAAC to finalize reports and investigate various sets of data to determine if the regulator is happy to return to the type to service. While Boeing’s representative did not specify any timeframe for the lifting of the ban, people close to the matter told Reuters reporters that it could happen as soon as November.
Carbary declined to be any more specific on the date, but said that,
“We are hopeful it will happen by the end of the year. It is up to CAAC. But I can tell you we are doing all we can to support them and we’re encouraged about how closely they are working with us.”
For Boeing, China is an incredibly important market to get back on line as soon as possible. Before the grounding, a quarter of its MAX sales took place in China, and the outlook for demand for the type was strong. Last week, Boeing raised its forecast for China’s aircraft demand over the next two decades, predicting 8,700 new aircraft for the region by 2040, the majority of which would be narrowbodies.
US government lashes out at China
Of course, it’s not only the grounding of the MAX that is stumping Boeing’s profitability in China. Trade tensions have made sales in the Far East difficult, and political issues have filtered through to the commercial market.
Yesterday, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo accused the Chinese government of blocking its airlines from purchasing what she called ‘tens of billions of dollars’ of Boeing aircraft. She said that China was not adhering to agreements set in 2020 under a trade deal with the former administration to buy US made goods, stating that,
“There’s tens of billions of dollars of planes that Chinese airlines want to buy but the Chinese government is standing in the way.”
It’s the second time in a week that she has accused Beijing of blocking Boeing’s sales. In an interview on NPR, she again said that China needed to play by the rules and stop blocking Boeing’s sales.