By Stella Qiu and David Kirton
ZHUHAI, China (Reuters) – Boeing Co’s 737 MAX test flight for China’s aviation regulator last month was successful and the planemaker hopes a two-year grounding will be lifted this year, the head of Boeing’s China business said on Wednesday.
“It went off without a hitch,” Boeing China President Sherry Carbary said of the test flight, speaking on the sidelines of Airshow China, the country’s biggest air show.
Boeing working with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) as it sifts through data and finalises reports before deciding whether the plane can be returned to service, Carbary said.
The ban, which has been lifted in the West and several Asian countries, could be eased in China around November, people close to the matter have told Reuters.
“We are hopeful it will happen by the end of the year,” Carbary said, declining to be more specific. “It is up to CAAC. But I can tell you we are doing all we can to support them and we’re encouraged about how closely they are working with us.”
Before the 737 MAX was grounded in March 2019 after two fatal crashes, Boeing was selling one quarter of the planes it built annually to Chinese buyers.
The company’s China sales have also been hobbled by U.S.-China trade tensions.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on Tuesday the Chinese government was preventing its domestic airlines from buying “tens of billions of dollars” of Boeing planes.
Carbary declined to comment directly on the remarks but she said free and fair trade was important to enable Boeing to deliver its planes around the world.
“I think right now our two governments are having some competitive issues on some sensitive issues that are legitimate and the two countries need to work through those,” she said.
(Reporting by Stella Qiu and David Kirton in Zhuhai; writing by Jamie Freed. Editing by Gerry Doyle)