3 miss­ing in air­craft crash near Aus­tralia

Ma­rine Corps’ Osprey was con­duct­ing op­er­a­tions from ship

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY THOMAS GIB­BONS-NEFF thomas.gib­bon­sneff@wash­post.com John Wag­ner con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Three peo­ple are miss­ing af­ter the Ma­rine Corps air­craft they were aboard Satur­day went down off the east coast of Aus­tralia.

The MV-22 Osprey was con­duct­ing op­er­a­tions from an am­phibi­ous as­sault ship — a large air­craft car­rier-type ves­sel de­signed for launch­ing he­li­copters — when the Osprey went into the wa­ter, the Ma­rine Corps said in a state­ment. The in­ci­dent is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and it is un­clear why the Osprey crashed, al­though land­ing and tak­ing off from ships at sea is of­ten dif­fi­cult and in­her­ently fraught with dan­ger.

Twenty-three of the 26 per­son­nel aboard the Osprey were re­cov­ered by the nearby ship’s small boats, and search and res­cue ef­forts are still un­der­way, the state­ment said. The air­craft was as­signed to Ma­rine Medium Til­tro­tor Squadron 265 and was op­er­at­ing with the 31st Ma­rine Ex­pe­di­tionary Unit, or MEU.

Pres­i­dent Trump was briefed on the in­ci­dent Satur­day morn­ing by chief of staff John F. Kelly, a White House of­fi­cial said. Trump and Kelly are in Bedminster, N.J., on what aides have de­scribed as a 17-day “work­ing va­ca­tion” for the pres­i­dent that be­gan Fri­day.

The MV-22 is a hy­brid-type air­craft that can take off and land as a he­li­copter but tran­si­tions its two en­gines to fly like an air­plane in mid­flight. The air­craft had a tur­bu­lent devel­op­ment his­tory and was in­volved in mul­ti­ple fa­tal crashes.

The 31st MEU — based out of Ok­i­nawa, Ja­pan — com­prises roughly 2,200 Marines and U.S. Navy sailors. Op­er­at­ing from a col­lec­tion of ships, the unit acts as a standby force that is al­most con­stantly de­ployed in the Pa­cific. Late last month, parts of the MEU were train­ing in Queens­land, Aus­tralia.

The crash is just the lat­est mishap for Ma­rine Corps air­craft. Last month, a cargo plane car­ry­ing 15 Marines and one sailor crashed in west­ern Mis­sis­sippi, killing all aboard. The in­ci­dent was one of the dead­li­est mil­i­tary avi­a­tion ac­ci­dents in decades, and it still re­mains un­clear what brought the air­craft down.

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