China Lays Foundations For Unbanning The Boeing 737 MAX

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has today cleared the way for the Boeing 737 MAX to resume operations. An Airworthiness Directive sets out the actions airline operators need to take in order to resume flying the jet, although it remains banned in Chinese airspace for now.

China 737 MAX ungrounding
Today’s Airworthiness Directive lays a path to ungrounding the type. Photo: Getty Images

Clearance finally begins

Finally, the Boeing 737 MAX is recertified to fly in China once more. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has today issued an Airworthiness Directive, which sets in motion the processes required to return the type to service.

The Directive sets out the revisions that airline operators will need to make in order to begin flying the MAX again. However, it does not constitute a removal of the ban against the MAX flying in Chinese airspace, nor does it specify when this will be lifted.

The news follows a period of flight testing that was undertaken in China by the 737 MAX over the summer. A 737 MAX 7 arrived in China for recertification flights in August, and returned to the States before the end of the month. In September, Boeing stated that the test flights had been a success.

China had noted last month that it was satisfied with the changes that Boeing had made for the narrowbody aircraft, and had instigated a period of consultation a couple of weeks ago. Airlines had until November 26th to submit their feedback, according to Reuters, a process that echoed the moves made in Europe and the US prior to its ungrounding.

737 MAX China
Dozens of MAX are parked up at Chinese airports. Photo: Getty Images

China was the first to ground the MAX following the two deadly crashes in 2018 and early 2019. It has taken a cautious approach to bringing the type back into service, with dozens of jets parked up around the country. In all, 15 Chinese airlines had taken delivery of the type, and hundreds more are in Boeing’s backlog awaiting delivery.

The final hurdle

The approval of the MAX is the final major hurdle for Boeing in returning the type to service following its extended grounding. China is a significant market for the US planemaker, with around a quarter of Boeing’s annually built planes heading for the Asian nation.

Other Asia-Pacific countries have approved the types return much earlier than China. Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, and India, for example, had long since moved to bring the type back into service, although none of these countries are quite such an important market for Boeing.

737 MAX China
China is an incredibly important market for the Boeing narrowbody. Photo: Getty Images

In October, Boeing stated that an estimated one-third of the 370 undelivered MAX airplanes that it had in storage were awaiting delivery to Chinese customers. Chief Executive David Calhoun noted that the company hoped to resume deliveries in the first quarter of 2022.

Aside from the safety concerns surrounding the MAX, Boeing has struggled in recent years to deal with China due to trade tensions with the US. Now, with a new administration in Washington and Boeing’s narrowbody workhorse nearing the resumption of flights in China, 2022 could be a much better year for the planemaker.