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FAA chief defends inquiry on Continental's air safety

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration, rebutting charges that his agency is not adequately investigating safety violations at Continental Airlines , said Thursday ''a long, grueling, intensive look'' at the airline has shown it to be safe.

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Donald Engen, who took over the FAA in March, testified at a hearing of a House subcommittee where the president of the pilots union charged Wednesday that the FAA was covering up safety violations at Continental.

The Air Line Pilots Association and Continental have been embroiled in a bitter labor dispute since September, when Continental reorganized its operations, fired two-thirds of its workers, and slashed salaries of remaining employees. After the pilots went on strike, Continental began hiring new pilots.

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