Last week, China’s aviation regulator met with Boeing about the return of the 737 MAX to Chinese aviation. The MAX fleet has not flown in China since 2019 after two fatal crashes grounded the aircraft worldwide.

Will the MAX be in China anytime soon?

On Tuesday, China’s aviation regulator said that last week it had a meeting with Boeing about the return of the MAX aircraft to China. This meeting occurred just one day before Boeing’s leadership announced that the manufacturer would begin reassigning MAX aircraft meant for Chinese airlines. According to a post from the regulator, the meeting was to analyze the revised training plans for the MAX fleet. Since the two fatal crashes involving the MAX aircraft in 2019, the aircraft have not flown for Chinese airlines.

China Southern MAX

A few months ago, China Southern began operating test flights with its MAX aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

According to Boeing’s Chief Executive Dave Calhoun, resuming deliveries in China is critical to the manufacturer’s future, but there is no expectation to deliver aircraft in China soon.

Reassigning aircraft meant for Chinese airlines

A few days ago, Boeing announced that it would begin reassigning aircraft meant for Chinese airlines because of a trade ban between the United States and China. These aircraft have been in storage for too long and are about to lead to financial losses for the manufacturer should the aircraft remain stored.

More than 140 aircraft are being stored, waiting to be transferred to Chinese airlines, worth $5 billion. These aircraft have piled up over the past few years since Chinese authorities have not allowed any MAX aircraft to operate in China. Some aircraft have already been repainted in a neutral white, and some have been painted in other liveries as aircraft are being reassigned. Though repainting aircraft is a loss for the company, receiving capital for the aircraft ready to be delivered is more important.

China Eastern 737 MAX

Not only were the MAX (shown in photo) aircraft grounded worldwide, but earlier this year, China Eastern grounded its 737-800 aircraft because of a fatal incident. Photo: Boeing

Just a month ago, a report published on Boeing China’s WeChat page said that Boeing China President Sherry Cabary stated that the plant was “ready for the resumption of the 737 MAX delivery in China.” The report was part of a series of promotional materials planned by Boeing China to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its entry into the Chinese market. Surely, Boeing would have liked to celebrate the historic mark with the return of the MAX operations in China.

Boeing’s plant in Zhoushan has not been active for more than three years. At its opening, the plant created a lot of buzz because it was the first time Boeing decided to place part of its aircraft production and delivery outside the United States. The official name of the Chinese Boeing plant is Boeing Zhoushan 37 Completion and Delivery Center. The completion center is a joint venture of Boeing and COMAC, while the delivery center remains wholly owned by Boeing.

Construction began on the plant in 2017, and by the following year, Boeing had delivered its first aircraft from the plant, a 737 MAX, to Air China. The aircraft was designed to accommodate 100 aircraft annually, but since 2019 it has not been functional.


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