ATLANTA, JUNE 21 -- The Federal Aviation Administration said it has increased safety inspections at Eastern Air Lines because of concern about labor-management problems.

The FAA launched a "special emphasis inspection" of Eastern three weeks ago, said John Kern, FAA deputy associate administrator of aviation standards.

"We can't let a labor-management issue get to the point that it either impacts on the maintenance of the aircraft or the conduct of the crew," Kern said in an interview published in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution.

The inspection, which will last another two weeks, is being conducted by personnel from the Flight Standards Division offices in the FAA's Southern and Eastern regions.

"Then, we'll take it from there," Kern said, adding that if the special inspection findings warrant it, the FAA could launch a full-blown investigation of safety on Eastern Air Lines.

Texas Air took over Eastern last fall and put in a management team to cut labor costs by one-third. Since then, 332 of Eastern's 4,400 pilots have retired or quit.

Pilots say they encounter more mechanical problems and the management is second-guessing the captain's judgment of a plane's readiness to fly.

"The management has been hacking and hacking away at the margin of safety until it has become razor thin," said Don McClure, chief accident investigator for Eastern's unit of the Air Line Pilots Association. Eastern spokeswoman Karen Ceremsak said, "We are in complete compliance with all FAA guidelines, and there are checks and balances to make sure we are."