By Lei Yan
The Boeing 737 MAX Will Soon Fly Again in China
A week before Chinese New Year, Chinese carriers are still busy readying their Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to get back to the sky. They are hoping to use those jets to add capacity to the travel rush around Chinese New Year.
On Dec. 2, 2021, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) reissued the airworthiness certification to the grounded jet. China was the first country to ground the aircraft after the fatal crashes of Ethiopian flight ET302 in early 2019 and Lion Air flight JT610 in late 2018. After 32 months, the jet is finally certified to fly again.
However, the unsealing of grounded aircraft is a complicated process. Aircraft need to be thoroughly inspected, and pilots and engineers need to be trained with the updated hardware and software. The initial projection was that Chinese carriers would resume operating flights with Boeing 737 MAX starting by the end of 2021. Now, the date was projected to be the end of Feb 2022, but still without any official announcements from airlines.
Although the process is complicated, airlines are making progress unsealing the Boeing 737 MAX. On Jan. 9, a Hainan Airlines Boeing 737 MAX registered B-207T lifted off from Taiyuan, China, bound for Haikou, China. The repositioning flight HU8009 took off at 4:42 p.m. and landed three hours later at the company’s headquarters. This was the first flight after the Chinese authority rectified Boeing 737 MAX.
Almost two weeks later, a China Southern Boeing 737 MAX lifted off from the carrier’s headquarters — Guangzhou’s Baiyun Airport — for a test flight. The test flight operated under the number CZ2007 and by aircraft B-1206, lasting about three hours.
All Chinese airlines are accelerating the pace of unsealing the grounded Boeing 737 MAX. According to internal resources, Air China opened multiple training programs for its engineers and pilots to familiar with the redesigned Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS). It is expected that Air China will soon fly its Boeing 737 MAX for testing.
Other airlines in China are also preparing to welcome Boeing 737 MAX back to their daily operations. However, smaller airlines will likely only be able to fly their 737 MAX later on, since they have to leverage those resources from major airlines. Resources such as simulators and pilot trainers are not easy to find, especially under current Covid-19 conditions.
Previously, Hainan airlines placed its grounded 737MAXs in Taiyuan, a city located in Northern China, because the environment of Taiyuan is more suitable for long-term aircraft storage, compared to its headquarter in Haikou.
Similarly, China Southern moved some of their Boeing 737MAXs to Urumqi, China, a metropolis located in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. The dry environment there is more friendly compared to the humid Guangzhou.
As of this moment, most countries in the world have lifted the grounding order on the Boeing 737 MAX. Passengers are slowly reaccepting the once-troubled jet. In China, neither Boeing nor carriers started any campaigns to advertise the Boeing 737 MAX, a move that likely would have drawn the ire of regulators. The public in China is generally holding a wait-and-see attitude toward the jet, though local communities of aviation enthusiasts are certainly excited to see the iconic jet back in the sky.