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China joins panel to review Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

By SCOTT REEVES in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-04-11 00:24
A procession of Boeing 737 fuselages, eventually bound for Boeing's production facility in Renton, Washington, rides on rail flatcars on Tuesday in Seattle. Boeing failed to win any orders for its 737 MAX airliner in March as scrutiny of the plane increased following a second deadly crash in less than five months. [Photo/Agencies]

China agreed on Tuesday to join the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) panel reviewing the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX jet.

Last week, the FAA said it would organize an international team of experts to review the safety of the aircraft, grounded worldwide after fatal crashes in Ethiopia on March 10 and in Indonesia on Oct 20, 2018.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) joins Singapore, Canada and the United Arab Emirates on the panel. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the FAA's counterpart, has not yet announced its plans.

China was the first nation to ground Boeing MAX aircraft after the crashes, which killed a total of 346 passengers and crew. Chinese airlines flew 97 of the 371 MAX jets in service worldwide prior to the grounding, the most of any nation, reported.

China Aircraft Leasing Group Holdings (CALC) said Tuesday it had not put its order for 100 MAX aircraft on hold, contrary to an earlier report in the South China Morning Post. In June 2017, the lessor placed an order for 50 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and later expanded the order.

A spokeswoman for the FAA said the panel will file a report with the US regulatory agency within 90 days of the yet-to-be-determined first meeting.

"We welcome the Joint Authorities Technical Review and look forward to working with the panel," Peter Pedraza, a spokesman for Boeing, said in a statement.

The cause of the two MAX aircraft crashes has not yet been determined. However, investigators are focusing on the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), an automated anti-stall device that may have forced the nose of the planes down and into a fatal plunge when it erroneously determined the aircraft were about to stall.

Boeing said on Tuesday that deliveries of 737 aircraft, the company's top-selling line, fell by about one third in the first quarter of 2019. However, the company did not break out deliveries of MAX aircraft and said other types of 737s are still being delivered to customers.

Deliveries for all types of 737 planes fell to 89 from 132 a year ago, but the company said most of that drop was caused by reduced production and delivery of the older version of the 737 jet that Boeing is still building for some customers.

Boeing's stock closed Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange at $369.04 a share, down $5.48, or 1.46 percent, from Monday's close. The 52-week range is $292.47 to $446.01 a share.

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