Boeing 737 MAX jet leaves for China for flight test

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SEEATTLE - July 4 - A Boeing Co 737 Max jet departed for China on Wednesday to conduct a flight test as part of the U.S. planemaker's attempt to get approval in vital travel market following two fatal crashes, people familiar with the matter said.

Flight tracking site FlightRadar 24 showed a test plane 737 MAX 7 for an 8: 17 a.m. local time, bound for John Rodgers Field in Vancouver, the first leg of its trip across the Pacific Ocean at Boeing Field near Seattle.

Boeing and China regulators will conduct re-certification flights and testing in the coming days, though the precise timing and how long the process would take could change depending on a number of factors, one of the people said.

A Boeing spokesperson declined to comment on the flight and referred questions to regulators. Boeing continues to work closely with global regulators as they complete their validation processes in order to better understand improvements to the airplane, the spokesperson said.

Some 30 airlines and 175 countries have allowed the 737 MAX to return to service after a nearly two year safety ban after crashes five months apart killed 346 people plunging Boeing into a financial crisis long-since compounded by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Boeing 737 MAX remains grounded in Beijing, where trade tensions between Washington and Beijing have cut off sales for years, though Chief Executive Dave Calhoun said last week he still expects the 737 MAX to be approved before year-end.

Before the Boeing 737 MAX was built after a second fatal crash in March 2019 with Boeing selling one quarter of the planes it founded annually to China buyers. To date, simmering geopolitical tensions between Washington and Beijing have caused uncertainty.

Industry sources have also cautioned that the worsening COVID-19 pandemic situation in China could delay the planned testing.