A new Boeing Dreamliner 787 has landed in China for the first time in four years.
The plane arrived in Shanghai at 4:25 pm local time (08:25 GMT) on Friday, according to flight trackers, marking the first direct delivery of a Dreamliner to China since 2019. The arrival may signal an unfreezing of Chinese orders for the United States company.
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The 787-9, headed for Juneyao Airlines, a privately owned Chinese carrier, took off from Everett Paine Field in Washington state at 11:24am Pacific Time (19:24 GMT) on Thursday.
In 2019, China, as well as other countries, suspended most orders and deliveries of Boeing planes after the profit-making 737 MAX was grounded.
That worldwide grounding followed two fatal crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia that killed hundreds.
China was an important market for the US aircraft company, accounting for about one-fifth of worldwide deliveries of Boeing 737 MAX models. The company has delivered 76 of the aircraft to Chinese airlines, with another 104 orders on the books.
A restart of MAX deliveries would represent a reset of Boeing’s relationship with China, create an opportunity for the company to offload dozens of planes in its inventory, and could pave the way for a larger breakthrough in orders.
“This is clearly a move by the (Chinese) government that might just signal to the airlines that they’re free to take deliveries and perhaps even place orders,” Richard Aboulafia of AeroDynamic Advisory, told Reuters.
Analysts also suggested that Boeing’s business with Chinese airlines could be lifted by a recent improvement in political ties between Washington and Beijing.
Last month, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held their first face-to-face talks in a year, which analysts said was “significant and could lower tensions”. On Thursday, senior military officers spoke in the first such contact in over a year.
Boeing last delivered a leased Dreamliner plane to a Chinese customer in 2021, but no 787s have been handed over directly since November 2019.
Individual MAX deliveries to China still need approval from China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), trade publication the Air Current said.
Boeing told Reuters it is ready to deliver to customers “when that time comes”.
The company has maintained 85 MAXs for Chinese customers in its inventory of about 220 planes and collects the bulk of payment upon delivery.