23 Oct 2004

Australian pair to plead not guilty in PNG plane case

8:17 am on 23 October 2004

Two Australians who landed a plane on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville have said they will plead not guilty to two charges of breaching air safety rules.

Andrew Reid and Peter McGee appeared in the Waigani District Court yesterday on charges of operating an aircraft in a careless manner and being engaged in dangerous activity involving an aircraft.

The charges relate to a Cessna Citation plane which landed two weeks ago without authority at Aropa airport.

A lawyer representing Reid and McGee says his clients had offered to fly the plane to Port Moresby but he said the response from CAA authorities had been terse.

The Bougainville administrator suspects the aircraft was bringing weapons to the rebel-held area around the Panguna mine.

Police are questioning a third Australian and a New Zealander in connection with the incident.

Investigators also want to question another two men, a fourth Australian and a Briton, who were on board Reid's plane.