Layover Outtake: Beijing International Airport – The Ground Support Vehicles

Yesterday I left home for Tokyo which involved a flight to LA, then the redeye to Beijing and now I sit here awaiting my connection to Tokyo.  Beijing Airport is absolutely massive, very modern, and like most airports, it seems like they are constantly renovating.  At least the lounge my dear wife hooked me up with has private shower facilities (OMG is that nice during a layover!) and enough free food and drink to gorge an elephant, so I’m hardly suffering.  Since I’m here for much of the day I decided to venture downstairs for a bit and peer out the walls of glass to see what was going on outside.

As you can see, Beijing still has a pollution problem, it is simply not possible to see beyond the edge of the airport due to the haze, it’s like L.A. in the ’80’s although it’s better than the last time I was here, that was more like L.A. in the ’70’s…  Thankfully the inside is sealed off.  After walking all around this particular terminal, here are the cars and trucks I was able to see, most of which are either unfamiliar or familiar but at the same time very different.  Not having a VPN means Google is not available so I can’t research what some of these are, your guesses will be as good as mine.

Our first contender is the fire chief in his Mitsubishi Montero, or I suppose it’s a Pajero over here.  This looks like the mid-2000’s version that we got but it could well be newer over here.  I’ll apologize here and now for the fact that everything was shot through glass at various angles, as such the reflections can’t be completely avoided much of the time.

Here’s the first one that has me stumped.  Yeah, that didn’t take long.  It’s some kind of Chinese brand, the logo sort of looks like the Acura logo but upside down.  It’s about the size of a Honda Fit, maybe a little longer.  This one’s an Air China vehicle, and there were several running around.

This one’s easy, an older Ford Transit.  There were a lot of these around, and I’m assuming they are built over here as well.  This one is older than the current Transit that we (finally) get in the States and we probably should have started getting it around the time this one came out.

No, not a ground vehicle besides being on the ground currently, I’m pretty sure this is an Airbus 330 and could be the plane I’ll be on later.  Being the international terminal there are planes from all over here, but obviously a LOT of Air China, China’s main national carrier.

Aha!  An Isuzu.  Or not.  This is a JMC.  Which is what GMC would be called if I owned it.  Lots of these about with several generations represented and as likely as not to be filled with four burly baggage handlers.  No F150 Crewcabs here at all.  The JMC can do the job.

See? Here’s another one, just slightly newer with a front end refresh.  He’s the last of the three dudes that got out of it.

Another Airbus, I think a 330 as well but it might not be, Finnair this time, looking quite lonely.  As I turn around in my seat and can see it’s still there so probably not leaving until this evening.

A Nissan owned by Japan Airlines, but not one that I recognize off the bat.  The badge seems to start with an H.  Not a bad-looking little wagon, a decent alternative to a little CUV except nobody would buy them in the U.S.

Finally a familiar face, a Mercedes, an older design although this one looks pretty new and is possibly still built locally for this kind of duty.

Everybody knows this one, although it’s getting to be a rarer sight in the U.S. since none of the domestics fly it anymore.

Ja, that’s the Queen of the Skies, the 747, this time in Lufthansa livery, probably chockfull of German engineers looking to build another factory over here.

Another Ford Transit, a newer one this time in SWB but high roof.

I’m pretty sure this is a Wuling, owned by GM.  A little minivan that is about the size of one of ours but narrower by something like 20% which makes it a little odd-looking.  The company logo from a distance looks sort of like the Corvette logo which I found humerous.

I have no idea who’s logo is on this, but it has the full Texas Edition chrome package on it.  It could be Chuck Norris’ if he moved here.  It even has a roll bar to mount a bunch of KC Hi-Lites on it but too bad the strobe bar would get in the way of those.  This was the only black vehicle I saw on the airport grounds besides a Mercedes E-Class.

Hey, look, it’s an EV, a Nissan at that.  Looks like a Sentra but it isn’t, we’ll see another later on.  EVs (while making sense for lots of people in lots of places) would really seem to make sense at an airport as they can just be hooked up to charge when not being used and there isn’t any reason to have any range anxiety whatsoever.

By the way, check out this 3-way intersection, it’s odd (to Western eyes) as there is zero signage.  There are two lanes going each way, and nobody has a stop or yield sign.  Everybody just kind of eyeballed it and the first one to the intersection kept going, the others slowed and then sped up again.  It worked sort of like a roundabout but one where everybody was on the same page and instinctively knew when to go, or slow, or make it work, such as what you find in England.

The two places where one could turn left sort of have stop-boxes painted on the ground but you’ll note that if they were used, they’d block the oncoming lane.  It worked out though and everyone just kind of looked around and drove around each other and every once in a while a random pedestrian (I’m assuming an authorized worker but…) just walked right through the middle.  It’d never work in the U.S.

This Nissan truck was moving while towing this thing on the ground, at first glance it reminded me exactly of what they use to sweep/smooth the dirt on a baseball field.  But that wasn’t the case here.  He made a left at the intersection and drove off, towing his contraption along the road.

Another Chuck Norris truck in everyone’s favorite non-color the world over it seems.  Not being able to use Google sucks.  I tried Baidu but can’t read the characters so that was zero help too. Not being able to use Google is like losing one of your senses, how did ANYthing get done before then?

This one’s kind of cool, it’s like a Nissan Frontier with a Nissan Xterra (or X-Trail) back end.  But different.  Is there a third row back there?

I love these Toyota buses, they are all over Asia it seems.  I don’t know why they never tried to crack the North American market with this stuff.  It just seems like such a better idea than a sawed off Ford E-350 with a rattly fiberglass contraption glued to the back of it.

Hey, a Jetta, China’s favorite joint venture since the ’80’s.

This seems to be the catering company that supplies the place, they all seem to wear the chef’s hats.  Nice touch.

The “Follow Me” car on the right’s a Hyundai Tucson but the one on the left I don’t recognize.  That is, I thought at first when I saw it from the side that it was an Audi Q5 due to the way the body character line has that wave in it, but it’s obviously not one.

I love how every other country seems to do airport buses for transferring people from terminal to tarmac, with these ultra-lowriding and extra wide buses like this Cobus 3000.  It just kind of glides along without having to worry about dips, speed bumps or potholes out in the real world.  I didn’t use one this time (yet) but when you do they end up being remarkably efficient and can pack huge numbers of people in each one, making the transfer process quick and easy.

Speaking of JV Jettas, here is one of the MKII’s from well after it was no longer available in the West.  With different front and rear ends it was still quite popular for a long time.  This one even has a little faux-Continental hump action going on there from an unfortunate fender bender.

Here’s a slightly better Tatra87 style shot of the rear (as good as I could get given the angle), much more modern than the Jetta back in the day.  And that’s a Wuling to the right of it, see what I mean about the logo sort of looking like a Corvette’s?

A Suzuki Alto in Air China livery.  This is kind of like if United Airlines had a fleet of Chevy Sonics or Ford Fiestas.  And why not?

Nissan makes more than just cars they have some trouble selling in the U.S.  They even make baggage cart haulers!  I wonder if there is a racing series for these?  After all, they do it for riding lawnmowers.

Another Euro-Van but with a different badge.  This is a VW Crafter, right?  Or is it Transit based?  This is driving me nuts…

Here’s another of those Nissan Frontier/X-Terra things but an EV this time.  There were a lot of these about.  I know about the Leaf of course and that there were a couple of other Nissan EVs but did not know that there was a truck//SUV EV.  Interesting.

A Honda Fit (which are built here), and another Wuling van like the one we saw early one.  It might be the same one, actually.

This is kind of how I imagine XR7Matt feels when he sees a little CUV merging in front of him, they all look sort of the same and it’s hard to figure out which one it is…But I really can’t as the badge is unfamiliar.  There’s a little bit of a lot of other CUVs in that design though.

The Jetta again, parked this time.  It looks shorter than ours but perhaps not.

And here’s that Nissan sedan EV again.  The body looks like a Sentra or maybe that’s a Versa sedan, they look similar to me.

Here this is called a Sylphy, which sounds like some kind of self-generated venereal disease.  In any case, not something you want to bring home to mama!  Still, lots of Nissan EVs, maybe they should bring over the sedan or make an X-terra EV for us.

I happened to catch this BYD, which most likely is an EV as well.  BYD is the company owned by Warren Buffett (well, Berkshire Hathaway), and has been dabbling in EVs for what seems like forever including a lot of buses that they’ve been selling in North America amongst other places.  The last time I was in China we rode around in a lot of BYD taxis that were based on second generation Hyundai Elantras and they seemed as well built as the Hyundais so…this isn’t a bad-looking vehicle, and Berkshire certainly has the pockets to make BYD a bigger player in the West if they wanted to.

Here’s that mystery “Follow Me” car again, speeding away to pull in front of a plane no doubt.

And as I need to go and figure out what gate I need to line up at, I’ll leave you with the last picture that should be instantly recognizable to anyone in North America (and nowhere else), a big Ford F-series, maybe a 650?  Anyway, thanks for letting me put my spare time to (not sure if “good” is the word) use here!