Aviation safety experts say the crash Saturday of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 in San Francisco is only the second major accident for the twin-engine, wide-bodied jet in the 18 years the model has been in service

The former head of aviation accident investigations for the National Transportation Safety Board, Tom Haueter, says the 777 has a fantastic record.

The National Transportation Safety Board made it clear Saturday that everything is on the table as to the cause of the crash, whether it was mechanical or pilot error. The NTSB arrives at a cause through a process of elimination. It may take several days for anything to be eliminated.

It is clear that the Asiana 777 first collided with the rocky seawall that protects the end of the runway. That s where the main landing gear sheared off.

The crash left a trail of debris. The plane s tail broke off. The vertical and horizontal stabilizers were lying on the pavement.

With little or no way to steer, the plane careened off the left side of the runway and came to a stop in the dirt.

On the face of it, Saturday s crash looks remarkably similar to the only other 777 accident in the nearly two decades the plane has been flying.

In 2008, on a long flight from Beijing to London, a British Airways flight also landed short of the runway. It lost its main landing gear. But that time, everybody survived.

The British Airways problem was traced to ice that formed in the fuel a kind of slush that clogged a fuel valve, depriving the pilots of that final push of thrust you feel on landing. Without that push, the plane wasn't going to make the runway.

That problem was traced to the plane's Rolls Royce engines -- a problem thought to be unique to that engine and has long since been fixed.

The Asiana jet had engines made by Pratt and Whitney, suggesting that the cause of the two cases might be very different.

KING5's GlennFarley contributed to this report

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