LONDON – U.S media broke the story at the start of the weekend that Chinese aviation officials “have signaled they are open to conducting flight tests on Boeing’s 737 MAX”, which would reflect a huge step towards getting the aircraft back in the air (Johnsson & Levin, 2021).
With the heightened trade tensions taking effect between the U.S and China, is this a question of aviation safety or geopolitics?
“China is the last major regulator to persist with the ban on the 737 MAX”, with it estimated to be months before the aircraft will actually be able to reach the skies of the country (Bailey, 2021).
Of course, Boeing’s interests ensure that the aircraft is fit to fly in China due to the significant orders still outstanding for Chinese customers. Around 76 Chinese-owned MAXs are grounded, with over 200 still to be delivered to customers such as China Southern, Ruili Airlines, Donghai, and Okay Airways, etc (ibid).
2022 Production Rates Unlikely
Boeing’s CEO Dave Calhoun believes that if the grounding in China continues, the manufacturer will not be able to hit its production rate target of 31 by 2022 (Freed et al, 2021).
“I do know that if it goes on for too long, I pay a price. I pay a price because they’re (China) the biggest part of the growth of the industry in the world.”Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun at a Bernstein Conference.
Such discussions will have to take place very quickly, as explained by Scott Kennedy, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Relations:
“The 100th anniversary of the founding of the party, the 20th Party Congress next year, the (2022 Winter) Olympics – all of that push China to be less cooperative”.Scott Kennedy, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Relations – Freed, J. et al (2021), Boeing faces rocky path to gaining approval for 737 MAX return in China, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/boeing-faces-rocky-path-gaining-approval-737-max-return-china-2021-06-23/ [Last Accessed 10th July 2021]
The what seems to be the forever-fought battle over trade with China will no doubt take a new level, as the “state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) is aiming for local certification of the C919 by year’s end, and is ultimately seeking Western certification” (Reuters, 2021).