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:

  1. Is there, in fact, any significant problem with the placement of the air traffic control tower at Ashgabat International Airport?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
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    $\begingroup$ Although this is certainly aviation-related, your questions 1 and 3 seem like they might be a better fit for skeptics.SE. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jul 3, 2016 at 16:30
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    $\begingroup$ Useful links: Aerodrome chart from AIP Russian Federation // Airport on SkyVector // Aerial view on Google Maps. From the aerodrome chart, and the Maps view, it seems the tower is well located and has a good view on the runways, though view on 12R threshold must be confirmed vs tower height $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jul 3, 2016 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ There are videos on Youtube, including this one. From this video, it seems the tower -- here at the top left corner -- is quite tall and the view shouldn't be obstructed by constructions and hangars. Note the tower is at the center of the airport and both runways, not at "a wrong side of a runway". $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jul 3, 2016 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Pondlife: Point taken about #3, but question #1 is better answered by aviation experts than by skeptics with no particular knowledge of airport design. $\endgroup$
    – Psychonaut
    Jul 3, 2016 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ Although this is certainly aviation-related, confirming or refuting rumours is a speciality of skeptics.stackexchange.com. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jul 4, 2016 at 9:25

1 Answer 1


It would seem your question ends with the first part. Having checked out the airport online, checking images, maps, etc, I can't see anything wrong with the placement of the tower. It actually seems nearly optimal... It's very near the center of the airport with an unobstructed view of the whole facility, and between the 2 main runways.... Parts 2 and 3 of your question become non-operative, so yes, this is a valid question here, and need not be sent to a skeptics group.

What was interesting to me though was that the image in google maps satellite view seems to show the parking spaces around the tower completely empty... No controllers on duty the day the image was taken?

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe they use taxi :p makes sense considering the number of taxiway there is $\endgroup$
    – Antzi
    Oct 10, 2016 at 4:58
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    $\begingroup$ There are also almost no planes and lots of construction work going on: perhaps the airport wasn't yet operational? $\endgroup$ Oct 10, 2016 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ No planes? In the image I see the terminal has plenty of planes at the gates, but no cars at the tower.... I had thought it might have been early morning, but the tower shadow is showing just before noon. $\endgroup$
    – root1657
    Oct 10, 2016 at 17:58

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