Bombardier is taking initial steps to form a joint venture for a new maintenance facility in China. The Canadian airframer signed a letter of agreement with Tianjin Airport Economic Area in Mainland China to increase maintenance services there.

Bombardier and Tianjin Airport Economic Area are hoping to finalize definitive agreements in 2014, clearing the way for a facility to open in 2016.

Bombardier expects the facility would provide maintenance, repair and overhaul services for business aircraft and possibly some commercial aircraft. Bombardier says the facility would operate similarly to its wholly owned service center network.

The facility would be the first Bombardier-owned business aircraft MRO (or part-owned) in China, building on the company’s existing support infrastructure in the region that includes field service representatives, customer support account managers, authorized service facilities and regional support offices in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore. Bombardier also has parts depots in Beijing.

But having its own base there will further cement its presence in the rapidly growing market. Eric Martel, Bombardier president, customer services and specialized and amphibious aircraft, notes the importance of the Chinese market, saying, “We are eager to have the opportunity to show customers our strong commitment to bringing OEM-backed services to their doorstep.”

Bombardier forecasts a total of 2,420 business jets will be delivered to China over the next 20 years. The manufacturer currently has more than 100 jets in the Greater China region. It also predicts the delivery of 2,330 20- to 149-seat commercial aircraft over the next 20 years. More than 40 Bombardier commercial aircraft currently operate in the region

The addition of the service center will also help the company compete in the services arena against Gulfstream, which began operated its own service center in Beijing in late 2012. That facility is a joint venture between Hainan Airlines Group, Hainan Aviation Technik and Deer Jet. Rival Dassault, meanwhile, opened its own subsidiary at the Hawker Pacific MRO in Shanghai that includes a team of Falcon technicians who can provide hands-on maintenance expertise in the region.

Bombardier says the Tianjin area was a particularly strategic location because the city, with a population of 14 million, is one of the fastest growing areas in China and is just 75 mi. from Beijing. It is also the largest seaport in Northern China.