After nearly five years, a Chinese airline took delivery of a new Boeing 737 MAX, and flew it across the Pacific Ocean, to its base in China.
Boeing certainly needs some good news, and restarting 737 MAX deliveries to China was one of its landmark goals. Understandably, the story got a lot less attention than one might have expected, say a month ago.
Saying that this is a new aircraft delivery needs a small qualification. Boeing actually built this particular 737 MAX-8 in 2019. The aircraft with registration B-20C8 first flew in September of that year, so it’s almost four-and-a-half years old.
Then finally, on the 24th of January, this 737 MAX and its China Southern Airlines flight crew, started their long journey to the plane’s new home. The first of three legs got them from Seattle to Honolulu. Then came a stop in Saipan in the northern Marianas, before the final leg, to Guangzhou.
737 MAX China Deliveries – A Sigh of Relief From Boeing?
While the 737 MAX was on the way, Chinese regulators announced that they had permitted Boeing to restart deliveries of the type to airlines in China, already in December. There were indeed rumors back then that this was the case.
Planespotters in Seattle had noted that this aircraft appeared to be performing acceptance flights in December, usually a prelude to a delivery. Some believed that Boeing would hand over the first 737 MAX to China before the new year, ending 2023 on a high. It didn’t quite work.
However, Boeing did deliver a 787 to a Chinese carrier in December, as we saw. In any case, 737 MAX deliveries to airlines in China will be a big cash boost to Boeing. The manufacturer reportedly had 85 737 MAX-8s built for Chinese carriers. There were more, but Boeing remarketed 55 of them to other airlines and lessors.
Deliveries of the 737 MAX to airlines in China had seemed imminent on many occasions in the past couple of years. But each time, international events always seemed to increase tensions and postpone key decisions.
The Alaska Airlines 737 MAX-9 blow-out earlier this month is Boeing’s greatest crisis for years. But as it turns out, it didn’t have a negative effect on China’s view of the aircraft. This could be simply because Chinese airlines don’t have orders for the 737 MAX-9.
Even so, Chinese regulators asked airlines to perform checks to their 737 MAX fleets, after the Alaska MAX-9 blowout. For Boeing, the next goal is to secure new 737 MAX orders from Chinese airlines, that need to grow or refresh their fleets.