The Boeing Co. 737 Max jet that’s in China for a flight test for regulators took to the skies above Shanghai on Wednesday, potentially a step toward lifting the plane’s more than two-year grounding in the country.
The jet took off at 9:24 a.m. local time, flew southeast along the coast and then headed out to sea, according to FlightRadar24. The site didn’t show a scheduled landing time. The aircraft left Seattle last week on a multi-leg trip to China. Authorities in China confirmed the test flight took place for about two hours above the southeastern city of Zhoushan.
China was the first country to ground the Max in March 2019 in the wake of disasters involving the aircraft in Indonesia and Ethiopia that killed 346 people. Regulators in China have so far held off approving the plane’s return, long after the U.S. lifted its ban late last year, with Europe and others following soon after.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Boeing has declined to comment on the test flight or any activity in China.
While the Max’s validation flight in China would be a milestone, the country’s regulators still could take months to wrap up their work before allowing the plane to resume commercial service.
China’s three criteria for greenlighting a comeback are that any change of design needs to approved, pilot training must be comprehensive, and the conclusions of investigations into the two accidents need to be clear and improvement measures effective.
An ungrounding would be a major boost for America’s biggest exporter, and would signal a thawing of relations between China and the U.S. Tensions remain on a range of issues from trade and technology to human rights and geopolitical ambitions.
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