It's often written that the construction of Ashgabat International Airport was sabotaged by the aesthetic whims of the country's late leader, Saparmurat Niyazov. The story goes that Niyazov, presented with the architectural plans for the airport, insisted that the air traffic control tower be moved to the "wrong side of the runway". He supposedly overruled the better judgment of the airport planners because he thought the airport would look better that way.
In the West, Niyazov is widely considered to have been an eccentric and megalomaniacal dictator, thanks in part to stories like this. While many of these stories are undoubtedly true, others have been shown to be exaggerations or misinterpretations. I'd like to know whether there's any truth to the story of Ashgabat's air traffic control tower, or if it's just another one of the false but plausible-sounding rumours cooked up to further mock Niyazov. So my questions are basically as follows:
- Is there, in fact, any significant problem with the placement of the air traffic control tower at Ashgabat International Airport?
- If the tower is poorly placed, what specific problems does this placement cause for air traffic controllers and airplane pilots, and how do they work around these problems?
- If the tower is poorly placed, is there any reliable evidence that this was a result of Niyazov's direct personal involvement? If there isn't, what's the earliest known appearance of this claim?