China’s civil aerospace regulator has cleared airlines to resume their operations with the Boeing 737 MAX, roughly a year after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and other such bodies in Canada, Europe, Brazil, and elsewhere recertified the aircraft’s flight-worthiness.
In October, Boeing CEO David Calhoun predicted the CAAC would grant recertification by the end of 2021, and resume deliveries to Chinese customers in Q1 2022. Chinese airlines have about 100 737 MAX jets in service, but its orders include several hundred more.
In an online post, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) stated: “After conducting sufficient assessment, CAAC considers the corrective actions are adequate to address this unsafe condition.” The directive outlined its requirements for lifting the grounding order it issued in March 2019, including the certified design changes that Boeing implemented after more than a year of investigation; proper training for air crews; and establishing the specific causes of the two crashes that prompted the groundings.
The 737 MAX is Boeing’s best-selling aircraft, a twin-engine narrow-body passenger jet. The program was grounded for 18 months – from March 2019 to November 2020 – as a result of two fatal accidents attributed to the flight control software overriding the crews’ actions. The aircraft was grounded and Boeing halted all deliveries in March 2019, though production of new aircraft continued.
During the period of the grounding Boeing redeveloping the 737 MAX Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), the flight control software, in coordination with the FAA. Beginning in June 2020, the new MCAS was tested separately by FAA, the European Air Safety Agency, and Transport Canada inspectors, and FAA (frequently emphasizing it was coordinating its actions with the other safety agencies) issued guidelines for U.S. carriers to update their aircraft and train their crews last November.
Other safety agencies followed FAA, and the 737 MAX is now cleared to operate in 170 countries.
“The CAAC’s decision is an important milestone toward safely returning the 737 MAX to service in China,” according to a Boeing statement. “Boeing continues to work with regulators and our customers to return the airplane to service worldwide.”