Boeing’s 737 MAX Deployment Underscores China’s Importance

Boeing 737 MAX 7
Credit: Boeing

To convince Chinese regulators of the airworthiness of the Boeing 737 MAX so they may recertify the type in the world’s second largest aviation market, Boeing deployed a 737 MAX 7 to China Aug. 4.

The plane arrived at Shanghai Pudong airport Aug. 7. 

Reuters reported that the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and Boeing have scheduled recertification flights and testing in the “coming days,” which could be as early as Aug. 11. 

In the trans-Pacific flight, the aircraft (reg. N7201S) departed Seattle for Kapolei, Hawaii and finally Shanghai via Guam. 

Boeing remained tight lipped about the test, saying that it “continues to work with global regulators as they complete their validation processes in order to better understand enhancements to the airplane.” 

Since the grounding began in March 2019, China’s position on the 737 MAX has remained unchanged and revolves around three conditions: updated designs must pass airworthiness inspection; pilots must receive adequate training for them; the cause of the crashes must be clear, and modifications made that have proven effective. 

Boeing reportedly sent 35 pilots and engineers to China in July and is the only country to which the company has sent an aircraft in support of recertification. Despite poor U.S.-China trade and diplomatic relations, Boeing’s efforts signal its seriousness and the potential of the Chinese aviation market. The company forecast in its annual market outlook that China’s passenger traffic will grow 5.5% over the next 20 years and would need 6,450 narrowbody aircraft over the same period. 

Aviation Week Intelligence Network Fleet and Data Services shows China alone has on order 486 737 MAX family aircraft and 97 already built and in storage, either in China or undelivered from Boeing. 

Although 737 MAX orders still eclipse Airbus’ A320neos backlog, China’s airlines are expanding with a regular stream of A320 deliveries, with 67 deliveries in the first eight months.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.