Xiamen Airlines Is Preparing For A Return Of The 737 MAX

Chinese carrier Xiamen Airlines is preparing its fleet of Boeing 737 MAXs for a return to the skies. The airline will modify its 10 MAXs in accordance with technical guidelines issued by Boeing. This is despite the fact the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has yet to lay out a timetable for the plane’s recertification.

ALC, Boeing 737 MAX, Branding
The Chinese airline will carry out technical modifications to prepare its 737 MAX fleet for service. Photo: Getty Images

Xiamen Airlines will modify its MAX fleet

As a prerequisite for getting the MAX back in service, Xiamen Airlines is performing the necessary technical modifications as issued by Boeing. The airline has 10 737 MAX 8s, all of which have been parked since March 2019. The Boeing customer, operating an all-Boeing fleet of 737s and 787s, has a further 30 MAXs on order with Boeing, including 20 MAX 8s and 10 MAX 10s.

The airline said in a statement,

“Boeing has recently issued some technical guidelines regarding the MAX. According to these guidelines, we have started on the modification, which is a necessary step towards the return to service (of MAX). 

Xiamen Air Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner B-1567
Xiamen Airlines is a loyal all-Boeing customer operating 737s and 787s. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

No timetable for a return

Although Xiamen Airlines is preparing its MAX fleet to return to the skies, there is no guarantee it will be able to operate them in Chinese airspace any time soon. The CAAC is one of the last aviation regulators globally to withhold recertification of the MAX. According to Dong Zhiyi, deputy head of the CAAC, “major safety concerns over the 737 MAX had not been fully addressed.” Xiamen Airlines will wait on updates from the CAAC before it can reintroduce the MAX.

Boeing 737 MAX, Cayman Airways, Ungrounding
It isn’t clear exactly when Xiamen Airlines hopes to reintroduce the MAX. Photo: Getty Images

According to Xiamen Airlines,

“Currently, we do not have a timetable for its return to service and everything is subject to notices from the aviation regulator.”

China was the first country to ground the MAX in March 2019 after two fatal crashes involving the plane. At the time of the grounding, more MAXs were operating in China than anywhere else in the world. Boeing owes about a quarter of its sales to Chinese clientele, with the 737 MAX debacle even forcing the hitherto-loyal Xiamen Airlines to consider purchasing Airbus A321neos instead.

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Why isn’t the MAX cleared in China yet?

With the FAA lifting the ban on MAX passenger flights in January, many regulators followed suit in the coming weeks. Now, over 160 out of 195 global aviation regulators have recertified the plane, including Vietnam just hours ago. However, the CAAC is holding off on its decision, citing three main concerns:

  • Design changes need to be certified
  • Pilots need to receive proper training
  • Specific findings of investigations into the two crashes
Xiamen Airlines Is Preparing For A Return Of The 737 MAX
The Chinese Civil Aviation Authority has identified three main areas of concern with the MAX. Photo: Getty Images

The regulator wants to conduct its own testing, specifically of the MCAS system and new software, before recertifying the plane in Chinese airspace. Last month, the CAAC said it was studying a plan with Boeing to get the plane back in service across China.

Do you think this is a sign China is planning on ungrounding the MAX soon? Let us know what you think in the comments.