Boeing 737 MAX resumes trip to China amid uncertainty over model’s return

A Boeing 737 Max jet airliner model is displayed at the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, or Airshow China, in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, China September 28, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song /File Photo

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  • Guam-Shanghai flight airborne on Thursday – tracking sites
  • Plane destined for Shanghai Airlines, a subsidiary of China Eastern
  • China Eastern 737-800 crash could delay MAX return – analysts

April 7 (Reuters) – A Boeing Co (BA.N) 737 MAX destined for China Eastern Airlines (600115.SS) subsidiary Shanghai Airlines flies from Guam to Shanghai on Thursday, flight tracking websites showed, in a context of uncertainty as to when the model will resume flight in China.

Flight BOE631 comes more than three weeks after the first 737 MAX bound for a Chinese customer since a 2019 grounding began its journey from Seattle to Boeing’s Zhoushan completion plant.

The plane, painted in the colors of Shanghai Airlines, had been grounded in Guam since March 15 due to a minor technical problem. It is expected to land around 11:30 a.m. Shanghai local time (0330 GMT), tracking websites said. Read more

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Boeing said it was bringing the plane to its Zhoushan facility to be closer to its customer and support a smooth and convenient delivery process.

“The aircraft will not be delivered until the customer is ready,” Boeing said in a statement.

China Eastern did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The flight to Shanghai, which is in the midst of a strict COVID-19-related lockdown, comes as Chinese authorities review China Eastern’s safety processes following the crash of a 737-800 on March 21 which killed all 132 people on board.

Although the model is the predecessor to the MAX, analysts fear it could set back Boeing’s efforts to regain ground in the world’s largest aircraft market and deliver more than 140 737 MAXs already built for Chinese customers.

In early December, China’s aviation regulator provided airlines with a list of fixes needed before it returned to commercial flying, which it said would happen early this year. So far, however, there have only been test flights.

China Eastern grounded its 223 737-800 planes as a precaution while the crash was investigated. Chinese authorities are investigating, but the US National Transportation Safety Board is helping them read the plane’s black boxes. Read more

According to the survey results, China Eastern faces consequences including fines, aircraft grounding and unfavorable treatment when applying for new routes and airport slots, Morningstar analyst Cheng Weng said. Read more

China Eastern has not released any forecasts for when MAX deliveries will resume, although rival China Southern Airlines (600029.SS) said last week it could take some of the planes this year. Read more

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Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and Stella Qiu in Beijing Editing by Shri Navaratnam

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