Boeing Max Takes to China’s Skies in Test to End Flight Ban
(Bloomberg) -- The Boeing Co. 737 Max jet took to the skies above Shanghai on Wednesday in a test flight for Chinese regulators, potentially a step toward lifting the plane’s more than two-year grounding in the country.
The jet took off at 9:24 a.m. local time, flew southeast along the coast and then headed out to sea, according to FlightRadar24. The site didn’t show a scheduled landing time. The aircraft left Seattle last week on a multi-leg trip to China.
Authorities in China confirmed the test flight took place for about two hours above the southeastern city of Zhoushan.
China was the first country to ground the Max in March 2019 in the wake of disasters in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people. Regulators in China have so far held off approving the plane’s return, long after the U.S. lifted its ban late last year, with Europe and others following soon after.
Boeing is nearing a deal to sell up to 80 Max planes to a start-up carrier in India, Bloomberg News reported earlier -- another major Asian market where regulators haven’t yet cleared the plane.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Boeing has declined to comment on the test flight or any activity in China. Shares of the Chicago-based planemaker were little changed in premarket trading as of 8:07 a.m. New York time on Wednesday. The stock has advanced 10% this year.
While the Max’s validation flight in China would be a milestone, the country’s regulators still could take months to wrap up their work before allowing the plane to resume commercial service.
China’s three criteria for greenlighting a comeback are that any change of design needs to approved, pilot training must be comprehensive, and the conclusions of investigations into the two accidents need to be clear and improvement measures effective.
An ungrounding would be a major boost for America’s biggest exporter, and would signal a thawing of relations between China and the U.S. Tensions remain on a range of issues from trade and technology to human rights and geopolitical ambitions.
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