Breaking: China Has Grounded the 737 MAX

In the aftermath of the second hull loss of a brand new 737 MAX 8, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (or CAAC) has grounded the 737 MAX aircraft.

Ethiopian Airlines and Cayman Airways have also grounded their 737 MAX aircraft until further notice.

The 737 MAX 8 has been grounded by the CAAC. Photo: Boeing

According to the statement released by the CAAC, the aircraft was grounded on the basis of similarities between the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crash.

The CAAC noted that the 737 MAX 8 was a safety hazard and asked all Chinese carriers to suspend use of the aircraft until further notice. The CAAC has said it would like information from Boeing and the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about the safety of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft before the grounding of the type will be lifted.

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At the time of writing, no other major aviation bodies have grounded or indicated lack of confidence in the safety of Boeing’s MAX aircraft.

Air China flies the 737 MAX 8. Photo: Boeing

China is a major market for Boeing 737 Next Generation and 737 MAX aircraft. Over 90 aircraft have been grounded as a result of this as carriers seek to minimize the impact on their operations. However, with such a large number of 737 MAX aircraft, there could be plenty of disruptions to flight schedules.

China’s three largest airlines, Air China, China Eastern, and China Southern, all fly the 737 MAX 8 in addition to Xiamen Air, Shandong Airlines, Shenzhen Airways, and Hainan Airlines. These carriers combined operate almost 1/3 of all 737 MAX aircraft in service today.

No information has been given as to when the 737 MAX will be able to fly again in China, but this grounding could last a while as investigations into both crashes continue.

The distinct 737 MAX winglet. Photo: Boeing

No doubt, this will cause some headaches for Boeing. Boeing’s 737 MAX is a hugely successful program and plenty of airlines have placed orders. In China, Boeing sees a huge potential for growth. As such, they have even invested in a 737 plant in China and have aggressively marketed the 737 MAX to carriers in an effort to stifle rival Airbus’s A320neo sales in the country.

China Southern 737 MAX. Photo: Boeing

China is a growing aviation market and will need a vast number of new aircraft. For a while, it looked like Boeing’s 737 MAX was unbeatable and would be the preferred aircraft for many airlines. Even after the first Lion Air crash, Boeing logged an order from Jeju Air and Vietjet. In addition, Boeing doesn’t seem to be slowing down their 737 MAX production one bit.

China Eastern 737 MAX. Photo: Boeing

We’ll keep you posted as updates come in about the 737 MAX aircraft and will let you know if any other aviation regulatory bodies ground the 737 MAX. If you’re scheduled to fly a 737 MAX in China in the coming days, keep an eye out for schedule changes or cancellations as airlines look at how to make the best use of their fleet and attempt to minimize schedule disruptions.

Do you think China did the right thing by grounding the 737 MAX aircraft? Let us know in the comments!

8 comments
  1. Wow! It’s amazing how 2 new, almost identical planes crash in such a short period. There are bound to be more 737max crashes unless Boeing does something fast.

    1. @Kaden,
      I’m not an Airbus or Boeing fan, but rather an aviation enthusiast.
      What we know for the moment is the probability of why the first crash occured. Boeing adapted the training of the pilots, and the training for transitioning pilots from the B737 NG to the MAX. Eventually, they could also modify the system that made the plane dive while reading a wrong data input of the angle of attack sensor saying that the plane was stalling.
      But as the pilots are supposed to know it now, they are also able to recover from that wrong computer decision.

      For the new crash, we don’t know yet what happened. The only thing that could be done is grounding the fleet and stopping deliveries until we know what happened.
      But there is no reason yet to believe that it’s only Boeing’s fault. Indeed, in most of the crashes the human factor is the reason for it. We can’t yet conclude anything from that crash.
      I would prefer that it’s Boeing’s fault so the B737 can be improved and safer. But for the moment we have no clue.

  2. This is the right decision. Not only due to similarities, also because Boeing didnt accept their mistake after the Lion air crash. This is a pure design issue from Boeing on the Lion air crash. The Flight Augumentation computers giving un commanded signals in just 10 seconds if pilot did react. Also the pilots were not trained to react in such case. Boeing and operators should not take any safety related issue lightly.

    1. Indeed it’s the right decision until we know what happened.
      Regarding the 1st crash, at least the pilot training was adapted, which is a “positive” outcome. I mean that at least something was learned and improved from the crash, making the future safer.
      I hope though that Boeing review all the changes that pilots might be unaware of.

      But I think also that we shouldn’t conclude that this manufacturer is better than that one and so on.
      All manufacturers greatly improved the safety, and those events are a reminder that even with the newest technologies, it’s never 100% safe, and that we should continue to have high manufacturing, maintenance and pilots standards.
      This could happen with Airbus, Bombardier, Embraer, Sukhoi, Comac…

  3. On March 3, 1991, United Airlines Flight 585, a Boeing 737-200, crashed while attempting to land in Colorado Springs, Colorado. During the airplane’s landing approach, the plane rolled to the right and pitched nose down into a vertical dive.[2] The resulting crash destroyed the aircraft and killed all 25 people on board.

    On September 8, 1994, USAir Flight 427, a Boeing 737-300, crashed near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While on approach to Pittsburgh International Airport, Flight 427 suddenly rolled to the left. Although the pilots were briefly able to roll right and level the plane, it rolled left a second time and the pilots were unable to recover.

  4. Yes China did the right thing
    Boeing has to take this matter very seriously its a question of human lifes it is not possible that Lion air,Ethopian pilots can make the same mistake,something is wrong with the technology

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