China Not Ready To Recertify The Boeing 737 MAX

Despite several major markets, including the US and Europe, recertifying Boeing’s updated 737 MAX, reports suggest China is less confident. A senior figure in the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said today that China would still like to conduct final testing before considering recertification.

China Not Ready To Recertify The Boeing 737 MAX
The Chinese Civil Aviation Authority is still unsure about changes to the MAX design. Photo: Getty Images

Speaking at a briefing in Beijing, Dong Zhiyi, deputy head of the CAAC, confirmed that the agency is working closely with Boeing and the FAA to recertify the previously-troubled aircraft. He went on to imply that there were still some issues that needed to be resolved before China would allow recertification to happen.

Previously China has said it would want to examine and approve all changes to the 737 MAX software as well as have pilots retrain on the new software before allowing recertification. In addition, BloombergQuint is reporting that China wants investigations into the causes of the Ethiopian and Indonesian crashes to be completed and cleared before recertifying the aircraft.

This could take months, which would be a major blow for Boeing. However, investigators in Ethiopia have said the final report could be issued on the second anniversary of the crash, March 10th, 2021.

China and the Boeing 737 MAX

China was the first country to place a total ban on all 737 MAX in March 2019 after the Ethiopian crash killed 157 people. Several months before, in October 2018, a Lion Air plane crashed, killing 189 people. China was the first to introduce a ban, and it’s looking likely it will be one of the last to lift it. The US, Europe, Australia, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia have all given Boeing the go-ahead, making China the last major market to hold off on approvals.

China Not Ready To Recertify The Boeing 737 MAX
China wants to perform its own tests on the new MAX software and sensors for the MCAS system. Photo: Getty Images

China’s three largest carriers Air China, China Southern, and China Eastern, are all Boeing 737 MAX customers, as are ten other Chinese airlines. Combined, Chinese airlines account for a quarter of current MAX sales.

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Delays could be a serious problem for Boeing

Despite China’s reserved attitude, other regulators seem happy with the changes. The FAA in the US and a number of other aviation authorities worldwide have approved the MAX, which is now operating regular passenger flights. This bodes well for Boeing, as other authorities have also requested further testing and have been happy with the results.

However, China has offered no timeline as to when it intends to do the final testing and resume MAX service. Undoubtedly, Boeing is hoping it can get the MAX recertified before China’s COMAC C919 undertakes final testing in the autumn months. The C919 is being advertised as competition to the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320.

COMAC C919 taxiing icing test
The COMAC 919 is close to certification and could offer Boeing serious competition for Chinese Carriers. Photo: Getty Images

With many Chinese carriers trying to recover from a difficult year, they may turn to the COMAC 919 if their 737 MAXs remain grounded. In addition, Boeing MAX production ground to a halt, and therefore deliveries are behind, while COMAC is preparing to start production as soon as possible.

If the major Chinese carriers turn to COMAC, Boeing could lose out in years to come. Boeing has said China would see major market growth over the coming 20 years and anticipates that Chinese carriers will place orders for over 8,500 planes worth an estimated US$1.4 trillion. No doubt Boeing is hoping to get the MAX back in the sky soon before the Chinese carriers start to look elsewhere.

Do you think China is right to still be hesitant over the MAX? Will the Chinese carrier start looking to place orders with COMAC? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.