China issues directive to return Boeing 737 Max to the skies in more than 2 years

This photo, taken on December 15, 2018, shows a Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft delivered by Air China during a ceremony at the Boeing Zhoushan 737 Procurement and Delivery Center in Zhoushan, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province.

STR | AFP | Getty Images

On Thursday, Chinese aviation regulators instructed airlines to make the changes necessary to reopen Boeing 737 Max aircraft, indicating that soon after more than two and a half years, those aircraft may be flying in China.

China was the first of dozens of countries, including the United States, to land a Boeing 737 Max in March 2019, shortly after the second of two catastrophic disasters in five months, which killed a total of 346 people. The FAA allowed planes to fly in November 2020 after Boeing made software and other changes.

“After sufficient assessment, CAAC believes that corrective action is sufficient to correct this unsafe condition,” reads the China Civil Aviation Authority’s airworthiness directive posted on its website.

The aircraft maker was up more than 4% premarket, while fuselage maker Spirit Aerosystems traded more than 9%.

“The CAAC decision marks a milestone on the path to the safe return of the 737 MAX to service in China,” Boeing said in a statement. “Boeing continues to work with regulators and our customers to bring the aircraft back into service around the world.”

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun told analysts during a quarterly phone call in October that the company expects China to remove grounding by the end of the year and that aircraft shipments are likely to resume in the first quarter of 2022.

Chief Financial Officer Brian West said in a phone call on October 27 that about a third of Boeing’s approximately 370 Max aircraft are destined for Chinese airlines.

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