The first major U.S. plane crash in a dozen years began to unfold in utterly undramatic fashion just before noon Saturday when a big white passenger jet with red, blue and yellow flashings banked to the right and began to descend toward the wide runways of San Francisco International Airport.

Inside the plane, seat backs were in the upright position, tray tables were locked in place and the laptops, books and toys that had entertained for more than 10 hours and over 9,000 km were stowed away for landing.

Outside, the skies were clear of the fog that so often shrouds San Francisco Bay and the wind was light. Asiana Flight 214 was expected to reach the gate within minutes.