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Boeing 737 MAX plane conducts China test flight as US manufacturer pushes for return

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A Boeing 737 MAX plane was recorded taking off and landing in southern China on Friday as the American manufacturer pushes to resume commercial flights with the model after a ban of nearly three years.

Chinese flight tracking app VariFlight Pro showed the China Southern Airlines' plane with flight number CZ2007 took off from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport at 10.24am before landing again at 1.57pm.

FATIII Aviation, a Chinese aviation content creator, also said on Twitter that China Southern Airlines, the largest operator of the 737 MAX model in the country, conducted its first test flight since the plane was grounded over safety concerns in March 2019.

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Boeing Asia Pacific Aviation Services, China Southern Airlines and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport did not reply to requests for comment.

.@CSAIRGlobal is now conducting the first 737 MAX test flight since the grounding. A significant step for 737 MAX in China. China Southern is the largest operator of the MAX in China. #737MAX pic.twitter.com/EkYJiJs3W0

- FATIII Aviation (@FATIIIAviation) January 21, 2022

The flight follows similar tests in Shanghai last August and by Hainan Airlines earlier this month.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued an airworthiness directive for the 737 MAX in December last year, saying it expected its return to service by the beginning of 2022.

It followed years of work and reviews by the CAAC, Boeing and US aviation authorities.

Two crashes that killed 346 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia in the space of five months raised safety concerns about the 737 MAX and saw flight bans imposed around the world.

Since then, some 30 airlines and 175 countries have allowed the 737 MAX to return to service.

But re-entry in China, Boeing's largest market, has proven more difficult, with tensions between Beijing and Washington adding to uncertainty.

The Biden administration has lobbied the Chinese government in an effort to win approval for the plane's return.

At the time of the suspension, China had the largest 737 MAX fleet after the US, with 97 aircraft operated by 13 carriers, according to state media.

Boeing announced in January that it received 79 new orders for planes in December, its best year of sales since 2018. About two-thirds of them were for 737 MAX models or others in the family.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.