BEIJING—China’s aviation regulator cleared the Boeing 737 Max on Thursday to return to flight, with technical upgrades, more than two years after the plane was grounded worldwide following two fatal crashes.
China is the last major market where the Boeing 737 Max was awaiting approval after the United States allowed flights to resume in December 2020 and European Union regulators gave permission in January. Brazil and Canada have also given approval.
Governments grounded the Boeing 737 Max after a total of 346 people were killed in the crashes of a Lion Air flight in Indonesia on Oct. 29, 2018 and an Ethiopian Airlines flight on March 10, 2019.
Investigators blamed a computer system that pushed the plane’s nose downward during flight that couldn’t be overridden by pilots.
Chinese pilots will need to complete new training before commercial flights can begin, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said on its website. It said Boeing Co. is required to install additional software and components.
“CAAC considers the corrective actions adequate to address this unsafe condition,” the agency said in an airworthiness directive.
Boeing’s shares jumped 7.5 percent Thursday.
“The CAAC’s decision is an important milestone toward safely returning the 737 MAX to service in China,” Chicago-based Boeing said in a statement. It said the company was working with regulators “to return the airplane to service worldwide.”
Boeing fired Dennis Muilenburg, the chief executive in charge at the time the 737 Max was developed. The company agreed, in a settlement of a lawsuit by shareholders, to add a board member with a background in aviation, aerospace engineering, or product safety and create a safety ombudsman’s office.
Boeing, headquartered in Chicago, was required to redesign the system during a process overseen by an unusually broad array of regulators from the United States, Europe, China, and the Middle East.
China has the largest 737 Max fleet after the United States, with 97 aircraft operated by 13 carriers before the suspension, according to state media.
In January, Boeing agreed to a $2.5 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department to avoid criminal prosecution for misleading regulators about safety of the Max. Most of the money will go to the airlines that bought the jets.
By Joe McDonald