China Southern Airlines, one of the country's three biggest carriers, completed a test flight of the Boeing 737 MAX on Friday, as Chinese airlines gear up for the model's return to service.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the first regulator globally to ground the 737 MAX following two fatal crashes, approved design changes in early December after more than two and a half years.
The regulator had expected airlines to resume commercial flights around the beginning of this year.
A MAX 8 belonging to China Southern, the largest 737 MAX operator in the country, took off from its headquarters city in Guangzhou and touched down three hours and 33 minutes later in the same city, according to aviation data provider Variflight. The plane did not carry any passengers.
That followed a Hainan Airlines flight on Jan. 9 from Taiyuan, where it had parked some of its grounded 737 MAX, to its base city in Haikou. That flight lasted for two hours and 52 minutes, according to tracking websites.
Before the MAX was grounded, Boeing was selling a quarter of the planes it built annually to Chinese buyers, its largest customers.
CAAC officials had said the planes would need to be modified and pilots would require additional training before the resumption of commercial flights in the country.
After nearly three years, Hong Kong is also permitting airline operators to resume operations with the Boeing B737 MAX aircraft in the city’s airspace. The Civil Aviation Department (CAD) in Hong Kong issued a directive on Friday, lifting its ban on the narrowbody model.
Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Department published a directive lifting its ban on the aircraft model on January 22. While there are zero local operators of the MAX, Hong Kong outlined several rules. Airlines that intend to fly the model in Hong Kong’s airspace and to the international airport must comply with the airworthiness directive from the FAA or a similar directive from the country where the plane was registered, said Victor Liu, the general director of CAD.
Additionally, the airline must carry a valid certificate of airworthiness meeting the standards by the Civil Aviation Organization.