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45% of Chinese Boeing 737 MAXs back in the air

Chinese airlines are progressively resuming MAX operations.

Since the Boeing 737 MAX returned to Chinese skies early this year, a dozen Chinese airlines have resumed operations. According to Boeing, about half of China’s MAX fleet is already operational.

MAX makes a comeback in China.

Boeing announced on Tuesday that, as of April 10th, 11 Chinese airlines, including Air China, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Fuzhou Airlines, and Lucky Air, had commenced MAX operations. 43 of the jets are already operational, accounting for roughly 45% of the country’s total MAX fleet, which is at just shy of 100. On March 22nd, Boeing CFO Brian West announced that 28 MAXs have returned to service, indicating that more than a dozen had returned to the skies in the previous three weeks. This amount stood at just eight MAXs in late February, and Boeing has since been aggressively supporting Chinese airlines in getting their surviving jets back into service after a lengthy layoff.

Although the MAX was theoretically re-certified in China in December 2021, officials will not allow airlines to use the type due to continued trade tensions between the United States and China. While international airlines have been flying the MAX into China since October, China Southern was the first Chinese airline to resume flying with the MAX in early January, nearly four years after the MAX was grounded.

Boeing’s new plan

The lengthy absence of Chinese MAX operations compelled Boeing to reassess its China strategy. In September, the business hinted that it might remarket MAX aircraft meant for Chinese airlines, implying that it had given up hope of a recovery, however this has since been reversed as Chinese operators revived the jet. While China’s aviation market swiftly recovers with the removal of COVID-related restrictions earlier this year, it appears that Chinese carriers just cannot function without their grounded narrowbodies. Boeing has over 130 MAXs in its inventory intended for Chinese carriers, but some airlines have cancelled their reservations in the aftermath of the March 2019 grounding.

Upgraded flight training

To better pilot training in the country, the planemaker has put a 737 MAX Flight Training Device at its training hub at Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG). Following the grounding of the MAX in March 2019, the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC) sought additional pilot training as one of the requirements for the aircraft’s return. Boeing China President Sherry Carbary stated,

“The move underscores our commitment to our Chinese civil aircraft clients. The equipment improvement enables us to provide even better assistance to Chinese 737 MAX clients as they grow their operations in and around China.”

There has been no word on when MAX deliveries will restart. China Southern Airlines was the last Chinese airline to receive a Boeing 737 MAX in October 2018.

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