GTK Rossiya, the Russian government airline that provides flight services to the president and FSO federal security service, has selected the Tupolev Tu-334 over Sukhoi's Superjet and Antonov's An-148 in a tender for four aircraft, for delivery no later than 2010.

Two of the four will be fitted with VIP interiors and two with special equipment for FSO. The selection is seen as a blow to Sukhoi, which has been lobbying heavily for the Superjet to be treated as Russia's only state-priority civil aviation project, at least until the advent of the MS-21 next-generation narrowbody airliner.

The Superjet was rejected because it has yet to fly, it has a relatively high backlog of 73 orders from commercial airline and leasing companies, and because of its large Western content - a disadvantage from the FSO's perspective.

The An-148 was certificated earlier this year and its first delivery is due in the first quarter of 2008, but as a Ukrainian design its selection would have been politically unattractive for Russian president Vladimir Putin on the eve of a general election.

The Tu-334, built at the government-owned KAPO plant in Kazan, made its maiden flight in February 1999 FSO/GTK Rossiya is likely to be the launch customer, although the first five production examples may go to Tatarstan Airlines.