The first Boeing 737 MAX 7 prototype has arrived in China for flight tests to recertify the aircraft for operations in the country. Last month, Boeing sent a delegation of 35 pilots and engineers to China to prepare for the next test. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials are also in China, overseeing the process and reportedly have just completed a compulsory quarantine period.
Flight tracking websites showed Boeing’s 737 MAX 7 test aircraft – registration N7201S – took off from Boeing Field in Washington State on Wednesday morning local time and landed in Hawaii on the way to China. It landed in Guam on Thursday for another fuel stop. It continued on Friday and landed in Shanghai at 10.41 am on Saturday August 7.
Boeing CEO David Calhoun has said that Chinese airlines are eager to resume MAX services as the COVID pandemic recedes. In addition, China will host the Winter Olympics in February 2022 that is expected to result in more domestic traffic. Calhoun said that the discussions with CAAC “were encouraging and constructive”. But air travel in China has stalled somewhat.
The 737 MAX is still banned from Russian airspace, so it cannot fly on regular commercial routes to China from the US. Instead, it is expected to approach the equator on its way to China, i.e. coming from the South. Neither Boeing nor the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) officials have commented directly on the flight.
After arriving in China, the 737 MAX will perform a simulator test on August 8. If the test goes according to plan, the jet will make its first test flight on August 11. The whole recertification process is expected to take a few more months.
Prior to MAX’s grounding in 2019, Boeing sold approximately 25% of its MAXs to Chinese customers. Many Chinese aircraft carriers, including China Southern Airlines, still have a large number of MAX orders and are expected, once recertified, to receive 43 737 MAX shortly. Some 100 MAX are grounded in China.
Approximately 175 countries worldwide have recertified the 737 MAX to return to service after design changes were made to the aircraft following two fatal crashes. China was the first country to ground the MAX.
Calhoun has said on a few occasions that ramping up production of the MAX beyond 31 per month will depend on the reopening of China,