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China Begins 737 Max Return to Service

CAAC Okays Changes, But Service May Only Resume With New Training, Procedures

China's aviation regulatory body took the first step towards allowing the operation of Boeing's 737 MAX, breaking a three-year-long grounding streak.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China has approved the changes made to address perceived shortcomings on the MAX, and said that commercial operations of existing 737 MAX aircraft would be allowed sometime in the coming months. The spokesman hinted at the possibility that domestic airlines may also be allowed to resume their purchases of the aircraft, great news for Boeing's books. 

The country is the 2nd largest operator in the world of the newest 737 variant, with 97 aircraft in service amongst 13 carriers. While some in the U.S. took the announcement to mean that a full return to service would be imminent, aviation official Yang Zhenmei reminded the audience that it's only one necessary part of the solution.

“Obtaining airworthiness approval is only one of the most basic tasks. In the follow-up, domestic airlines will have to conduct modification and recovery for grounded aircraft, pilot training, and so on,” he said. 

The changes made to the Max have mollified regulators both at home and abroad, including a redesign of the aircraft's flight control processors, software behavior, and the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System. The groundings began in March 2019 following two crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia, blamed on the dissimilar software behavior in certain flight regimes from legacy aircraft. Boeing submitted their revised 737 Max to China in August of 2021 for certification and approval, passing only days after it arrived.


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