China’s aviation regulator has cleared the Boeing 737 Max to return to flying, with technical upgrades, more than two years after the plane was grounded worldwide following two fatal crashes.
China is the last major market where the Boeing 737 Max was awaiting approval, after the United States allowed flights to resume in December 2020 and European Union regulators gave permission in January. Brazil and Canada have also given approval.
Governments grounded the Boeing 737 Max after a total of 246 people were killed when a Lion Air flight crashed in Indonesia on October 29 2018 and an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed on March 10 2019.
Civil Aviation Administration of China considers the corrective actions adequate to address this unsafe conditionCivil Aviation Administration of China
Investigators blamed a computer system that pushed the plane’s nose downwards in flight that could not be overridden by pilots.
Chinese pilots would need to complete new training before commercial flights could begin, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said on its website.
It also said Boeing would be required to install additional software and components.
The CAAC's decision is an important milestone toward safely returning the 737 Max to service in ChinaBoeing
“CAAC considers the corrective actions adequate to address this unsafe condition,” the agency said in an airworthiness directive.
Boeing’s shares jumped 4.25% in pre-market trading on Thursday.
“The CAAC’s decision is an important milestone toward safely returning the 737 Max to service in China,” Boeing said in a statement.
It said the company was working with regulators “to return the airplane to service worldwide”.
Boeing fired Dennis Muilenburg, the chief executive in charge at the time the 737 Max was developed. And the company agreed, in a settlement of a lawsuit by shareholders, to add a board member with a background in aviation or aerospace engineering or product safety and to create a safety ombudsman’s office.
Boeing, headquartered in Chicago, was required to redesign the system during a process overseen by an unusually broad array of regulators from the US, Europe, China and the Middle East.
China has the largest 737 Max fleet after the US, with 97 aircraft operated by 13 carriers before the suspension, according to state media.
China is especially important to Boeing and its European rival, Airbus Industrie, because they are counting on its expanding travel market to propel sales growth. North American and European demand is forecast to be flat in coming decades.
In January, Boeing agreed to a 2.5 billion US dollars (£1.9 billion) settlement with the US justice department to avoid criminal prosecution for misleading regulators about the safety of the Max. Most of the money would go to airlines that bought the jets.