Q&A: Unpicking China’s move to ground Boeing 737 MAX fleet

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s aviation regulator obtained worldwide observe when it turned the quite initially to ground Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane adhering to Sunday’s deadly airplane crash in Ethiopia.

FILE Photograph: Boeing 737 MAX airplane are parked at a Boeing era facility in Renton, Washington, U.S., March 11, 2019. REUTERS/David Ryder

China is the world’s most significant customer of the 737 MAX planes, with its airways touring ninety 7 of the worldwide fleet of 371.

Its point out media shops these as the People’s Each individual working day newspaper have contemplating the actuality that Monday crowed about how the nation was the quite initially to do so and identified as for Boeing to be particular the protection of the airplane. (here)

Less than are inquiries and alternatives on China’s regulator, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), its ultimate selection to ground the planes and the country’s relationship with Boeing.


The CAAC oversees civil aviation in China, these as certifying airplane and airways and investigating incidents. It opinions to the Ministry of Transportation.

Its duties are comparable to people today of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Basic safety Business (EASA).

It has also overseen the enhancement of Chinese airlines’ basic protection history just following a selection of crashes in the 1990s and early 2000s.


The CAAC questioned Chinese airways to prevent touring the planes early on Monday, as the Ethiopian Airways crash appeared to have similarities to the Lion Air crash in Oct involving the quite similar airplane.

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“Given that two incidents the two associated not long ago transported Boeing 737-eight planes and took position in the study course of get-off phase, they have some diploma of similarity,” the CAAC noted, introducing the motion was in line with its primary basic principle of zero tolerance of protection potential risks. The 737 MAX eight is often referred to as the 737-eight.

Li Jian, deputy head of the Chinese regulator, also suggested media this 7 days that regulators ended up getting “uncertain irrespective of no matter whether pilots have the bravery or potential to fly” the airplane and noted that they ended up getting worried about technological difficulties elevated by the Lion Air investigation.

What is THE Importance OF CAAC’S Speedy Choice?

The CAAC has customarily taken its cue from the FAA, which ordinarily would have established the regulatory tone on these an incident as it has main oversight around Boeing.

Acquiring explained that, the CAAC’s assurance has increased with the development of the country’s aviation market, which is predicted to overtake the United States as the world’s greatest in the up coming ten years. Beijing is also keen to make its have fledgling business enterprise airplane sector.

Western market resources say China has in hottest a very long time striven to assert its independence as an air protection regulator as it negotiates mutual protection normal recognition with regulators in the United States and Europe.

That will arrive as China seems to broaden its impact in line with its growing money clout.

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It signed a mutual recognition offer with the FAA but market resources say it has struggled to acquire acceptance from the FAA that would allow for it to encourage China’s self-created C919 airliner to Western airways.


The regulator carried out special inspections at airways these as China Southern Airways and China Japanese Airways which flew Boeing 737 MAX planes.

The regulator held conferences with airways to emphasis on the Lion Air crash, what “hidden protection dangers” the airplane might have expert and questioned airways to revise flight manuals and give additional instruction to pilots and regimen routine maintenance crew, in accordance to statements on the CAAC’s net website.


Boeing’s profits relationship with China dates once again to at the quite minimum 1972, when a prevent by by U.S. President Richard Nixon led to the introduction of Boeing planes to the nation. Boeing now ships about a single certain in four jets it sells to China.

Boeing competes fiercely for business enterprise business in China in opposition to European rival Airbus and in December opened its quite initially 737 completion plant in the nation, placing in interiors and paints liveries.

The quite initially airplane transported from the center, which is a joint business with point out-owned Enterprise Airplane Corp of China (COMAC), was a Boeing 737 MAX eight whose shopper was the country’s flag provider, Air China.

However China is amongst Boeing’s most significant customers, it is also a crucial provider, furnishing features for each and every specific Boeing jet, which involve the 737 MAX, 777 and 787 Dreamliner, and is dwelling to a array of Boeing joint ventures.

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In 2015, Boeing noted that its training in China contributed up to $one billion for every yr to the Chinese financial local climate.


The CAAC’s Li suggested media that the grounding was owing to protection challenges and not trade frictions.

Beijing has also not slapped any tariffs on any Boeing airplane, which shows the actuality that any these tariffs could be lastly handed on to Chinese airways. Shutting Boeing out of the sector would also signify Chinese airways would have only a single certain substitute, Airbus.

Acquiring explained that, the overall influence of the U.S.-China trade war on Boeing continues to be unclear, as the business did not earn any publicly declared airplane bargains in mainland China previous yr.

U.S. officers noted this 7 days that they hope they are in the supreme months of conversations with China to hammer out a offer to relieve their tariffs dispute.

Reporting by Brenda Goh Included Reporting by Stella Qiu and Shanghai Newsroom Improving by Nick Macfie

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