A Boeing 737 MAX test took off from China on Wednesday for a flight around Shanghai, the first since the country banned such planes more than two years ago after two fatal accidents.
The plane, authorized to fly in America and Europe since late last year, has yet to obtain a new certification from the China Air Transport Regulator (CAAC) to fly in the country. This decision is eagerly awaited by the US aircraft manufacturer, which must deliver a hundred aircraft to Chinese companies.
The Boeing 737 MAX took off at 9:24 a.m. from Shanghai Pudong International Airport, according to specialized websites FlightRadar24 and RadarBox. Registered as N7201S, the plane flew “nearly two hours” before landing in Zhoushan, the city’s airport said. Zhoushan is an archipelago located about 140 kilometers from Shanghai in a straight line.
Asked by AFP, the Chinese air transport regulator (CAAC) did not immediately respond to a request for details. Shanghai-Pudong Airport, for its part, has indicated that it does not have information on “non-commercial flights”. In recent days, the specialized press had reported the arrival in Shanghai on Saturday of a Boeing 737 MAX for flight tests.
China was the first country in the world to order its airlines to suspend 737 MAX flights in March 2019, for safety reasons, after two accidents in a few months that left 346 dead.
The day before the ban, a plane of this model, operated by Ethiopian Airlines, crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa. The disaster, which left 157 people dead, came just over five months after another 737 MAX crashed in Indonesia, killing 189 people.
After 20 months of immobilization on the ground, the aircraft had been cleared to fly again in November in the United States. Then, in most of the world, after the modifications to the flight control software that led to the two accidents and the training of new pilots in particular. China, for its part, maintained its ban, explaining that at the time it “did not have a timetable” to reauthorize the 737 MAX.
The regulator conditioned the resumption of flights to the conclusions of the investigations of the two disasters that involved these models. The CAAC also established as prerequisites a “complete and effective” training of the pilots, as well as technical modifications in the devices to guarantee the safety of the flight.