The reintroduction of the Boeing 737 MAX is becoming an increasingly hot topic in the aviation industry. Since the type’s grounding last year following two major accidents, Boeing has made numerous changes to enhance its safety. However, China is one country in which its reintroduction does not appear to be imminent.
Grounded over 18 months ago
Boeing’s next-generation 737 MAX aircraft saw its introduction to commercial service in May 2017. However, less than two years later, its entire fleet had been grounded following two catastrophic crashes. The disasters involving Lion Air flight 610 (October 29th, 2018) and Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 (March 10th, 2019) saw a tragic death toll of 346 across the two incidents.
Following the second crash, it became clear that there were several parallels between the two accidents. This suggested significant issues affecting the type as a whole, as opposed to just individual examples. As such, aviation safety agencies worldwide issued grounding notices concerning the aircraft over the following days.
The Chinese Civil Aviation Administration issued its grounding order for the 737 MAX on March 11th, 2019, the day after the crash of ET302. This was followed a day later by a similar order from the European Aviation Safety Agency.
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Finally, on March 13th, 2019, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration. This effectively saw the type grounded worldwide with immediate effect for the foreseeable future. According to the New York Times, this represented over 340 aircraft across 47 airlines.
Steps towards recertification
It has been over 18 months since the Boeing 737 MAX was grounded worldwide. During this time, Boeing has worked in conjunction with aviation safety agencies to improve the type’s safety in light of the two disasters that led to its grounding.
A critical breakthrough was finally made last week. On October 16th, Simple Flying reported that the head of the EASA was finally satisfied with the changes that had been made. As such, it is expected that the type will be recertified by the end of the year.
This has led airlines to begin making plans for the commercial reintroduction of the 737 MAX. For example, American Airlines is planning to reintroduce the aircraft on flights between New York and Miami in late-December. Meanwhile, Ryanair expects to see 30-40 737 MAX aircraft operating within its extensive European network by summer 2021.
Chinese return not on the horizon
However, this rush for reintroduction is not a worldwide phenomenon. Earlier today, Reuters reported that China, for example, does not have a particular timetable for the reintroduction of the Boeing 737 MAX among its airlines. This was announced by the head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, Feng Zhenglin. As China was the first country to ground the type, it is perhaps understandable that it would be more apprehensive about its reintroduction.
That said, while a return to service in China is not imminent, it is also unlikely never to occur. Feng, who has held two meetings with Boeing’s President concerning the return of the MAX, states that:
“[The CAAC] is happy to see the aircraft resume commercial operations in China if the three principles it proposed to address safety issues can be met.”
It remains to be seen how long it will take for the aforementioned principles to be met. As such, there is currently no set date for the reintroduction of the Boeing 737 MAX in China. It is certainly a curious time for aviation as a whole, but perhaps the type’s recertification will be an important step in helping the industry to look forward once again.
How do you feel about the recertification of the Boeing 737 MAX? Would you feel safe flying on one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.