A Los Angeles federal grand jury has heard testimony from about 30 Lucas Western employees from Park City concerning alleged discrepancies in the military contractor's parts-inspection system.
Another 24 Lucas workers are expected to give testimony before the grand jury completes its probe at the end of the year, said Salt Lake City defense lawyers.Other employees have been questioned at the Park City plant by military investigators who last year seized company business records.
Defense lawyers Stephen Mc-Caughey and Loni DeLand said most of the employees subpoenaed by the grand jury are lower-level inspectors, machinists and assembly-line workers who testified in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
The grand jury hearings began in June in Los Angeles, where Lucas' domestic operations are concentrated.
Lucas spokesman Renate Myles confirmed that the workers are testifying in Los Angeles and that the company is cooperating with the investigation.
The international aerospace corporation has operated the Park City plant since 1989. Employing more than 300, the facility produces commercial and military aircraft components, including gearboxes, helicopter transmissions and other parts. Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and Rolls-Royce are among its top customers.
The Utah and California operations have been under scrutiny for some time. Citing potential safety problems, Navy inspectors in 1993 refused to accept some Lucas parts for aircraft.
The Wall Street Journal, quoting confidential military documents, in May reported Lucas-made parts were involved in failures that "have caused engine first, aborted missions and were factors in the loss of aircraft."
But Myles said Lucas never has been notified by the military that Lucas equipment has been involved in any of a reported 167 emergency landings. Further, independent studies found that Lucas parts' performance in Naval equipment exceed requirements by 10 to 15 percent, Myles said.
The Salt Lake Tribune quoted an unidentified source on Thursday as alleging Lucas management in Park City, pressured by production quotas, took frequent shortcuts in required inspections. Those parts then were either shipped to other Lucas plants for assembly or directly to U.S. military sites.
Lucas shook up management in Park City in April, introducing a new compliance review program.
Despite the lengthy investigation, Lucas in July received a $6 million Navy contract to make gearboxes for 98 FA-18 fighter planes.
Ex-foreman Al Alonzo has not testified because he has not been granted immunity from prosecution, said his lawyer, Ron Yengich. Alonzo has been identified as a target of the probe, although Yengich insists his client has done nothing illegal.