© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Boeing logo is seen on the side of a Boeing 737 MAX at the Farnborough International Airshow, in Farnborough, Britain, July 20, 2022. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra/File photo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Boeing has won a key clearance from China’s aviation regulator, moving it a step closer to resuming deliveries of 737 MAX aircraft to the country after a more than four-year freeze, trade publication The Air Current said on Wednesday.
Individual aircraft deliveries to China that were suspended in 2019 after two deadly crashes still need approval from China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the report said.
“We continue to support our customers in China and will be ready to deliver for our customers when that time comes,” Boeing (NYSE:) said in a statement.
The deputy head of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) on Dec. 8 told a Boeing executive in Beijing the airplane maker was welcome to deepen its development in the Chinese market, Reuters reported. The Air Current, citing unnamed sources, said the regulator’s clearance was granted that day.
The CAAC and NDRC did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
Chinese imports of the MAX, Boeing’s most profitable product, have been suspended since it was grounded worldwide in 2019. Safety bans have been lifted, with MAX aircraft delivered before the grounding already flying inside China, but new deliveries have remained on hold.
A 737 MAX designated for China Southern Airlines flew from Boeing Field in Seattle to Boeing’s nearby facility in Moses Lake, Washington, and back on Wednesday afternoon, according to data from flight tracking website FlightRadar24.
Analysts from Jefferies and Deutsche Bank said in investor notes that it appeared to be a customer acceptance flight – a test flight operated by an airline pilot that occurs before delivery.
For Boeing, restarting deliveries would symbolize the re-opening of doors to one of the world’s most important aerospace markets, which Boeing projects will compose 20% of the world’s aircraft demand through 2042.