Boeing officials met with China’s aviation regulator last week to review pilot training criteria for its 737 jetliners, a sign the planemaker may finally be close to returning its MAX aircraft to regular airline service in the country.

The talks were held in Zhoushan in eastern China and included a visit to Boeing’s new completion and delivery center, the media arm of the Civil Aviation Administration of China said Tuesday. The dispatch provided a rare glimpse into the maneuvering around Boeing’s most important jet.

After issues raised at the session are resolved, the regulator plans to issue an updated review of Boeing’s 737 narrowbody family, CAAC News said. That will mark the completion of the process required for the MAX to be reintroduced in China, the report said. No timeline was provided.


The Sept. 14 meeting occurred before Dave Calhoun, chief executive officer of the Arlington, Virginia-based planemaker, signaled that Boeing wouldn’t wait indefinitely for a thaw in U.S.-China trade relations. Boeing’s top executive told reporters last week that the planemaker was re-marketing to other buyers a “small number” of the 140 or so already built MAX aircraft that had been earmarked for China.

“Calhoun, to his credit, did get out there and say exactly the right thing,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with AeroDynamic Advisory. “He was conciliatory, but also clearly pushing the agenda.”

Returning the 737 MAX to the skies in China and resuming deliveries are crucial steps toward helping rebuild the planemaker’s balance sheet that was battered by a lengthy MAX grounding globally and the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s regulator cleared the updated 737 to resume flights last year, provided its airlines followed certain protocols in retraining pilots and bringing aircraft out of storage. While several airlines began preparations for resuming service, they were halted as COVID-19 lockdowns dampened demand for air travel.