One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but if reports from Bloomberg on July 9 are correct, better days are coming again for the Boeing MAX in China. The news agency cites unnamed sources that the Chinese regulators are opening up to recertify the MAX again. Is China’s door open for the MAX again?
Boeing will reportedly send a team of 35 pilots and engineers to China later this month to demonstrate to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) that the MAX should safely return to service. It is expected that this will be followed by an extensive review and test flight campaign, in which the Chinese want to convince themselves. Other regulators have done the same before they recertified the MAX for passenger service. The FAA was the first in November, 2020.
The CAAC was the first to ground the fleet in China on March 11, 2020, one day after the fatal accident of the Ethiopian MAX 8. The grounding has continued until today, with China and Russia the most prominent countries still refuse the type back into service. This will not be just for technical reasons, of course, as the political tensions between the US and the two countries have been strained for the past couple of years and continue to be so under the Biden administration. As such, it remains to be seen what happens after the MAX has demonstrated its airworthiness to the CAAC. As we explained, there are many battles for Boeing to win on different fronts.
The Chinese market is of great importance to Boeing. During the Bernstein conference on June 3, CEO David Calhoun said that there is no way for him to ramp up the production of the MAX beyond the planned 31 per month in 2022 until he has clarity around the situation in China. “We have tried to push out China deliveries in our inventory and with respect to the commitments on our line rates. We’ve tried to push them out as far as we can, risk reduction to all those kinds of things. But we’re going to get within cycle pretty soon, right. And as you get within the cycle, if we can’t restore those, those trade routes then we’re going to have to delay going for 31 to anything until we’re confident that, that is restored and so that, that’s why I’m not getting ahead of itself on it.”
Boeing’s unfilled orders backlog shows 104 MAX for Chinese airlines: 36 for Ruili Airlines, 34 for China Southern, 25 for Donghai Airlines, and 9 for Okay Airways. But this excludes lessors with Chinese roots that have placed numerous MAX at Chinese carriers. BOC Aviation has 50 on order, CALC 66, CDB 21, and SMBC 75.