Kerki is a city located on the left bank of Amu Darya river in the east of Turkmenistan. According to archaeologists, the city is at least 2500 years old. Many streets of the city provide ready-made scenery for shooting a historical film. There remain only two high hills of the once ancient fortresses that existed in this locality. The sights of Kerki feature several caravanserais and more than a hundred-year-old Orthodox Church of Michael the Archangel.
Today Kerki is one of the actively developing centers of the industrial and transport infrastructure of Lebap province and the whole country. Kerki region has been traditionally famous for karakul, melons and, certainly, carpets belonging to the group of Amu Darya carpets with ornaments characteristic of the Turkmen tribe of Ersary. In contrast to Teke carpet “gel” (pattern), the local one is larger with soft tones, and the general color of the carpets consists of dark shades of red and brown, intersected by black lines. Nowadays, specialized stores sell Kerki carpets comparable by quality to the old samples preserved in museums.
Located at the intersection of transcontinental routes since ancient times, Turkmenistan seeks to realize its transport potential, establish mutually beneficial trade and economic relations and revive the Great Silk Road in its modern appearance. An extensive transport network is being created in the country, including high-speed highways, new railways, sea and river terminals, high-tech and convenient airports. All these transport services are designed to provide even more comfortable conditions for citizens of the country, raise the socio-economic standard of living of people, as it is simply impossible to imagine their modern life without flights on civil aviation planes and travels in compartments of modern trains.
Three international airports have been commissioned in Turkmenistan in recent years, including in the administrative center of Lebap province, Turkmenabat, on February 26, 2018; in the Caspian city of Turkmenbashi in April 2010; and a new complex of the Ashgabat International Airport that began operations in September 2016.
A new airport of Lebap province, the Kerki International Airport was inaugurated on June 23, 2021. The opening ceremony was attended by President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, who arrived in the new air harbor by helicopter.
Together with members of the government, leaders of different levels, representatives of public associations and the mass media, the head of state viewed the new complex, visited the waiting room of the passenger terminal and the airport apron.
The capacity of the new airport is 100 passengers per hour. The total area of the terminal is more than two thousand square meters. The height of the control tower is 31.7 meters. All those present at the opening ceremony noted the modern appearance of the Kerki air harbor, original design ideas and engineering solutions.
The halls of the passenger terminal are fitted with windows protecting from ultraviolet rays and the most durable materials. The airport building has areas for baggage and carry-on luggage, primary screening, ticket offices, an information desk, a cafeteria, souvenir and newsstands, a pharmacy, a medical office and waiting areas for passengers.
The terminal is equipped with modern security and service systems such as video surveillance, electronic door locking, a baggage inspection and handling system, an automatic fire alarm and fire extinguishing system. The departure hall can accommodate 120 passengers. It has a mother and child room, a cafe and amenities for people with disabilities.
The area of the airfield together with the runway and taxiways totals 42282 square meters. It has parking space for two large airliners and four helicopters at a time. The apron is 165 by 240 meters. The runway is 2700 meters long and 45 meters wide. It is equipped with signaling, ornithological, radio engineering and navigation systems. All equipment is strictly specialized and meets all modern safety requirements and international standards.
The infrastructure of the new airport also features an emergency and fire service building, a technical block, a checkpoint, a garage for special vehicles, several transformer substations and other auxiliary facilities. In addition, 12.1 thousand square meters of the territory adjacent to the airport was landscaped. There is of course an airport land side, parking lots for passengers and airport employees and a bus stop.
Engineering protection of the territory of the new airport from flooding is also provided. The airport has a system for collecting storm water and melt water from the airfield with its subsequent purification for use in irrigation of the airport.
“In the era of power and happiness, we are reviving the Great Silk Road, as evidenced by the opening of the Kerki International Airport. It will help open up more opportunities for domestic civil aviation and facilitate high-level passenger and cargo air transportation, create favorable conditions for development of tourism in the region and increase economic cooperation with neighboring countries,” President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said at the opening ceremony of the new airport.
A little later, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) informed Turkmenistan that it assigned a four-letter individual identifier to the Kerki International Airport - UTAE. This index indicates the geographical location of the aviation service, providing air service between fixed points. It is intended to ensure the safety of air navigation, regularity and efficiency of air services.
The Kerki International Airport was also presented with the certificate of conformity issued by the Munich International Airport. The document confirms that all airport parameters related to planning and design, requirements for their physical characteristics, operation and maintenance of airfields, as well as landing, navigation, meteorological, light-signaling and other necessary systems comply with international norms and standards.
The new airport in Kerki meets all the required criteria, primarily in the field of flight safety and high level passenger service. Given the location of the city between Uzbekistan in the north and Afghanistan in the south, the geostrategic importance of the international airport in Central and South Asia is increasing.
There is no doubt that the new international airport will stimulate the intensification of air cargo and passenger transportation both in the eastern region of Turkmenistan, where a large industrial cluster is being actively developed, and between neighboring countries.
Development of civil aviation in Turkmenistan is currently a pressing issue. It concerns absolutely all sectors and segments of the national economy, all areas of multifaceted interstate relations and multilevel international contacts, from big politics to simple human relations. It is directly related to the social sphere, quality of life of people, care of every citizen, creation of best conditions for self-realization of every citizen of the country. Civil aviation is a high-tech, science- and capital-intensive industry. On the one hand, it is the result of the innovative development of society and economy of the state. On the other, it is an indicator of this process. And it is especially important that this is an indicator of positive social transformations in the society that is intended for people.
The goals of development of the domestic air transport industry are defined in the transport strategy of Turkmenistan formulated by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. The main directions of this strategy include the establishment of a multimodal transport network of the country, integration into the world transport system and realization of the transit potential of the country in accordance with the task of innovative development of the national economy.
It is no longer a secret that Turkmenistan is an important transport link of regional and international importance, and the country’s modern air harbors play a leading role in this area. They are the airports similar to the recently opened one in Kerki of Lebap province and the one whose construction is to be started in the village of Jebel of Balkan province. An international tender has been already announced for construction of the airport complex in Jebel with the capacity of 100 passengers per hour, as in Kerki.
It should be noted that after the opening ceremony of the new Kerki International Airport, the Boeing 777-200LR liner flew to Turkmenabat with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and newlywed couple on board. The head of state talked to the young married couple during the flight, wishing them happiness. It is symbolic that the start of operations of the airport coincided with the beginning of life of a new young family.