Aussie PM`s pilots suspended over drinking spree

Two elite RAAF pilots, who regularly fly Julia Gillard, have been suspended.

Last Updated: Dec 24, 2010, 14:05 PM IST

Sydney: Two elite Australian air-force pilots were suspended for going out drinking the night before they were due to fly Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the defence department said on Friday.

The two members of the Royal Australian Air Force`s 34 Squadron, used to transport VIPs, were temporarily suspended but not disciplined further after the incident, the department said.

The statement follows a News Limited media report that the pilots hit the town in Darwin after a military funeral attended by Gillard in July, and did not return to their motel until after 5:00 am.

"After the crew members self-reported their activities, they were temporarily suspended from flying while a quick assessment and counselling were conducted, in accordance with defence procedures," a department statement said.

"As this was a first occurrence, members were counselled and no further disciplinary action was deemed necessary. There have been no further occurrences."

The report, citing defence cables obtained through freedom of information laws, said the pilots and two female flight attendants angered fellow motel guests with their raucous behaviour, including horsing around with a fire hose.

The next day, one of the pilots was breath-tested and "closely monitored" before being allowed to fly Gillard and her entourage to Adelaide, it said.

The incident came to light as the military probes an alleged drug ring operating out of a base in Sydney, after claims sailors are smuggling heroin and cocaine on Navy ships and selling it in the city`s red-light area.

Bureau Report