Boeing Surges

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NEW YORK CITY: The increasing likelihood that the crash of TWA Flight 800 was the result of mechanical failure may turn out to be good news for Boeing. The reason? Airlines are now even more anxious to replace their older planes with newer models. Days after Newsday said that a draft report by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that the 26-year-old plane essentially came apart in midair, Continental Airlines finalized a $3.5 billion order with Boeing to upgrade its fleet. "That 747 had logged 110,000 flying hours," Lee Kreindler, who represents some of the families in civil suits against Boeing, told TIME Online. "It was designed for 60,000 hours. A new airplane wouldn't have been torn apart (by a falling beam)." According to the draft report, that's exactly what happened: A hatch cover blew off one of the six-foot beams that divide the plane's cavernous center fuel tank into smaller compartments, sending another beam crashing forward and forcing a third beam and the wall it held up into the cargo hold. That cut the electrical power to the plane, weakening the fuselage of the old jet. "The news that the cause was possibly mechanical failure on an old plane is likely one of the factors fueling demand for newer aircraft," said Steve Binder, senior managing director of Bear Stearns. "Many of the recent orders were motivated by airlines looking to replace their older planes (rather than increase their service.)"