China still not ready to re-certify 737 MAX while COMAC C919 production nears lift-off

China Southern Airlines Boeing 737 MAX ©AirTeamImages

China’s Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) remains one of the last major markets to withhold re-certification of the Boeing 737 MAX, with no clear indication being given of any anticipated timeline for the troubled jet to return to its skies.

China was one of the first countries to ground the 737 MAX after two fatal crashes, the first involving Lion Air and the second involving Ethiopian Airlines. China has indicated it wants to examine and approve all changes to the 737 MAX software, while also having its pilots retrain on the new software, prior to awarding re-certification. Additionally, China wants investigations into the causes of the Ethiopian and Indonesian crashes to be completed prior to re-certification. This would be a major blow for Boeing, though investigators in Ethiopia have indicated that the final report could be issued on the second anniversary of the crash, which is March 10.

China’s three largest carriers Air China, China Southern, and China Eastern, operate the 737 MAX, as do ten other Chinese airlines. Combined, Chinese airlines accounted for a quarter of current MAX sales prior to its grounding. With the 737 MAX having returned to the skies in the U.S., Europe, Australia, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia, China is yet to confirm when it will carry out final testing so that recertification can take place.

This will be an anxious time for Boeing as production of the jet was wound down prior to re-certification, and deliveries are now behind schedule, while every effort is currently being made to get China’s COMAC 919 into production. It may be that as Chinese carriers look to recover from a very difficult year in 2020, they will turn to their home-grown jet. Boeing has estimated the Chinese market over the next twenty years stands at approximately 8,500 jets for an approximate value of US$1.4 trillion in sales. 

Correction: In yesterdays leading article it was not made clear that CAE was acquiring only the military training division of L3Harris Technologies. The article has been amended for greater clarification and we apologise to readers, CAE, and L3 Harris Technologies for the erroneous reporting.

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