The delivery is a boost for the beleaguered Boeing 737 Max, which has come under scrutiny since a door plug blew off an Alaska Airlines jet.
Boeing is slated to deliver a 737 Max to a Chinese airline for the first time since March 2019, according to Bloomberg.
Data from FlightRadar24 shows that the 737 Max for China Southern Airlines was scheduled to leave Boeing Field in Seattle at 9:10 a.m. PT for Honolulu before it reaches China. The plane, a Max 8, departed from Boeing Field at 11:55 a.m. PT, according to FlightRadar24.
The delivery marks an end to the years-long freeze on 737 Max imports to Chinese carriers amid political tensions between the U.S. and China. Boeing had previously raised its demand outlook for China — one of the fastest-growing aerospace markets — in September, citing economic growth and demand for domestic travel, according to Reuters.
China banned imports of the 737 Max after two crashes in 2018 and 2019 involving the Max 8. Chinese airlines only started to fly the 737 Max in January 2023, almost three years after the U.S. ended its grounding of the aircraft.
Boeing had also been virtually shut out of the Chinese market since 2017 because of rising U.S.-China trade tensions. The U.S. planemaker recently directly delivered a 787 Dreamliner to a Chinese airline in December, signaling that the country was starting to warm up to Boeing.
Boeing declined to comment on the delivery.
The China Southern Airlines order is a rare bit of good news for the 737 Max, which has come under scrutiny after a door panel blew off an Alaska Airlines jet. The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded the Max 9 as a result of the Alaska incident.
Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun met with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to address recent concerns about the company’s quality control.
“We don’t put planes in the air that we don’t have 100% confidence in,” Calhoun told reporters, according to The Guardian.
The CEOs of United Airlines and Alaska both expressed frustration with the planemaker in televised interviews on Wednesday.
“I am angry. This happened to Alaska Airlines,” Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci said in an interview for NBC News’ “Nightly News With Lester Holt” on Tuesday. “It happened to our guests and happened to our people.”
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