Osprey safe, reliable to fly- top Marine

By Peter Mitchell, AAP US Correspondent

A US Marines commanding general has assured his air crews, Australia and other allies the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft is a safe, reliable and an "exceptionally valuable asset".

An Osprey crashed into the sea off Queensland on Saturday during a training exercise, killing three young Marines, and a 48-hour operational pause grounded the aircraft.

"We value our aircrews and the Marines and sailors who fly in our aircraft, as well as the citizens we fly over in the United States, Japan, Australia, and throughout the world," Lieutenant General Lawrence Nicholson, commanding general of the III Marine Expeditionary Force, said.

A full investigation into the "mishap" has been launched, with firsthand accounts from the 23 survivors collected and the importance of adhering to flight standards and safety procedures re-emphasised to squadron members.

"After taking these actions and making an initial examination of the facts and circumstances leading up to the mishap, the MEU (Marines expeditionary unit) determined that the Osprey is safe to fly and resumed operations," Lt Gen Nicholson said.

"I concurred with the MEU commander - I would never put my aircrews or any local citizens in danger by flying an aircraft that I do not believe is safe and ready to fly.

"We did not take the decision to continue flight operations lightly."

Salvage and recovery operations were underway at the crash site off the coast of Shoalwater Bay, Queensland, with the assistance of the crew of Australia's HMAS Melville.

"We mourn the loss of our marines and grieve with their families," he said.