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The Boeing 787 Dreamliner sits on the tarmac at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington.

Robert Sorbo | Reuters

Boeing on Thursday handed over a 787 Dreamliner directly to a Chinese airline for the first time since November 2019, a milestone that could open up the possibility of deliveries of the manufacturer’s cash cow, the 737 Max.

The Boeing 787-9 for privately owned Juneyao Airlines departed from outside of Boeing’s Everett, Washington, factory for Shanghai, Boeing said Thursday. The last new delivery of a new Boeing 787 to a Chinese airline was in 2021 through a leasing company.

Boeing sent the aircraft as China’s pause on scores of pending deliveries of the Boeing 737 Max, the company’s best-selling jet, nears its fifth year.

China grounded that jet in March 2019 in the wake of the second fatal crash of the plane in about five months, and other countries followed. The U.S. lifted its ban in 2020 and others later followed suit.

Boeing has been scrambling to increase production and deliveries of new jets, when manufacturers receive the bulk of an airplane’s price.

Just over a third of Boeing’s inventory of about 250 Max planes are dedicated to Chinese airlines, according to Jefferies. Boeing had remarketed some of the other Maxes to other carriers.

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