DALLAS — Boeing has resumed deliveries of its 737 MAX aircraft to China after a nearly five-year hiatus. The news comes just as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pressures Boeing by preventing the company from increasing its production of the narrowbody plane.
The FAA’s decision comes in response to “unacceptable” quality problems. While this move is expected to create further difficulties for Boeing, the FAA has also agreed to permit the 737-9 to resume flying once inspections are finished. This model was grounded after an incident involving an Alaska Airlines jet on January 5.
MAX Deliveries to China Resume… for Now
As for China, a Boeing 737-8 was delivered to China Southern Airlines (CZ) this week, marking a new chapter in the saga of the once-grounded jet. The aircraft departed Seattle on a ferry flight to Honolulu, marking the start of its official handover to the Chinese carrier.
The Boeing 737 MAX faced a global grounding in 2019 following two fatal crashes linked to a software malfunction. China, an important market for Boeing, was the first country to ban the Boeing 737 MAX jet and among the last countries to unground the aircraft.
Even though the Chinese aviation regulator cleared its airlines to return the MAX jets into commercial operations last year, deliveries remained stalled due to regulatory hurdles and ongoing safety concerns.
A Small Boost for Boeing
The resumption of MAX jet deliveries to China is a breath of fresh air for Boeing, on the surface offering a small boost to its production line and easing financial pressures. China is the world’s second-largest aviation market, and Boeing has a significant backlog of orders from Chinese airlines for the 737 MAX.
However, the path forward may not be entirely smooth. Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun was on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, trying to reassure key senators that the company’s planes are safe. Still, the CEO says today that the manufacturer backs the FAA halt to its 737 MAX production expansion. Several airlines have also expressed concerns about potential delivery delays due to ongoing supply chain challenges. Unsurprisingly, the AS mid-air door plug blowout has reignited safety concerns, prompting additional inspections by Chinese authorities.
Despite these challenges, the return of the 737 MAX deliveries to China is a significant step in the aircraft’s recovery journey, however that may look in the short run. As Boeing navigates old and new hurdles and ensures the continued safety of the jet, it will be interesting to see how the Chinese market shapes the future of the 737 MAX program.
Feature Image: China Southern Boeing 737-8. Photo: Nick Sheeder/Airways