Navy engineers have identified 83 jet engines that may have been serviced by a mechanic who allegedly left key parts out of gearboxes under repair, Pentagon sources said yesterday.
However, the mechanic was quoted by a newspaper in Jacksonville, Fla., as saying the Navy was using him as a scapegoat for sloppy quality control work in its Naval Aviation Depot there.
Ten teams of Navy engineers were fanning out across the globe to check and repair the affected J52 engines, among 300 whose records have been checked this month, Navy spokesmen announced Wednesday.
By yesterday, Pentagon sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said the engineers had identified 83 of engines that needed closer inspection and possible repair.
On Wednesday, Navy spokesman Lt. Ken Ross said engineers had tracked down 32 of the engines, 25 of them on TA4 trainers at Corpus Christi, Tex., and seven others at undisclosed locations with the Pacific Fleet.
The J52 engine, manufactured by the Pratt & Whitney division of United Technologies Corp., also powers the A6 Intruder attack plane, the KA6 tanker and the EA6B electronic warfare plane.
Warren K. Woods, a Jacksonville man who identified himself to the Florida Times-Union as the accused mechanic, said Navy officials were blaming him in an effort to divert attention from problems in the quality control program. He denied responsibility for the errors.
"I know my work, and I know that I never left any parts off," the newspaper quoted the civilian mechanic as saying. "If that was the case, someone should have found out before this and run me out the gate."
Woods said the method for keeping track of who works on each gearbox is so flawed that the Navy cannot pinpoint him as the culprit.
Ross said that since August 1986 there have been four incidents of engine seizures "due to an incorrectly assembled gearbox on the J52." None of the failures so far has caused a loss of life or airplane, Ross said.
Lt. Kippy Burns, a Navy spokeswoman, declined to identify the mechanic by name, but said a preliminary investigation was under way to determine whether disciplinary action was warranted. She declined to specify what penalties could be levied against the mechanic, who she said had been on an unauthorized leave since Nov. 18.