Grumman Corp. is considering the purchase of Fairchild-Republic, the Long Island-based aircraft manufacturing subsidiary of Fairchild Industries.

"We've got a team over there looking at the aircraft operations," Grumman spokesman Robert Harwood confirmed yesterday.

However, Harwood added, "This is a very preliminary step. Whether or not we're interested, we don't know yet. . . . There have been no negotiations, no sitting down at the table . . . . Just because we're neighbors -- less than five miles by the way the crow flies -- we're looking at it."

Reports within the industry indicate Grumman is examining Fairchild-Republic very closely. Acording to one report, a team of 60 executives has been visting the plant daily for the past two weeks.

Faced with mounting losses in the aircraft industry, Fairchild announced earlier this month that it wants to focus on its communications, electronics and space business. As a result, Fairchild said it plans to sell Fairchild-Republic -- or at the very least find a partner for it.

The Fairchild-Republic subsidiary has been particularly troubled by its contract to develop and produce the T46A jet trainer for the Air Force. There have been so many production problems that the Defense Department last summer cut its monthly $8 million payment in half, citing "numerous management and production deficiencies." The Defense Department, which is concerned about the future of the company, may cancel the entire contract as part of an effort to trim its budget.

A Fairchild spokesman yesterday acknowledged that Grumman is looking at the plant and said he doesn't know of any other company that expressed similar interest.

Grumman's Harwood noted that "we've traditionally been a house for Navy aircraft and are trying to get into the Air Force programs," and the Fairchild operations would enhance that opportunity.

Given the close proximity of the two firms, the acquisition "would make sense," said Christopher Demisch, a financial analyst with First Boston Corp. However, given Fairchild-Republic's problems, "It will be a difficult sale," he added.