Industry analysts expected the plane to resume flying in the coming months. But its return could be closely linked to the investigation into the 737-800 NG crash, analysts have said, with Chinese government officials hesitant to bring the Max back as they investigate a crash involving its predecessor.
The Max’s crashes were directly related to flight control software known as MCAS, which the Max is the only commercial airliner to use. This system was introduced in the Max to account for changes made when the aircraft was upgraded from the NG, or Next Generation line.
On Monday, Boeing said it was in contact with China Eastern Airlines and with the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency leading US efforts to help China investigate the crash.
The safety board said it had appointed a lead investigator to represent the investigation and that Boeing, the plane’s engine maker and the Federal Aviation Administration would provide technical expertise. Boeing also said its technical experts were “ready to help” China’s aviation authority, the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
The Boeing 737-800 NG is a workhorse from the skies. Boeing delivered nearly 5,000 planes between 1998 and 2020, far more than any other commercial plane it sells, according to Boeing data. Along with the Max, it has particular appeal to airlines due to its passenger capacity and travel range. Single-aisle aircraft are generally used for domestic flights, although some airlines use them for shorter international routes.
For Boeing and its 737 family, China is an important market. Of the 25,000 passenger planes in service worldwide, about 17% are Boeing 737-800 NGs, according to Cirium, an aeronautical data company. China has nearly 1,200, followed by Europe, with nearly 1,000, and the United States, with nearly 800. In the United States, American Airlines has 265 in service, while Southwest Airlines in has 205, United Airlines has 136 and Delta Air Lines. at 77, according to Cirium.
China is also the second largest market for Boeing planes, after the United States. Last year, the company predicted that the number of commercial planes in China would double by 2040, with airlines there needing 8,700 new planes by then, worth around $1. .47 trillion dollars.