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The transition to quieter aircraft required by the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 was expected to benefit communities, airports, and airlines. In turn, the transition was expected to reduce community opposition to airport operations and expansion and to reduce the demand for funds provided for noise abatement through federal grants and user charges. The results expected from the transition to quieter aircraft were partially realized. The transition occurred as planned and considerably reduced the population exposed to noise levels incompatible with residential living. Nevertheless, noise concerns remain a barrier to airport expansion, and the demand for federally authorized support for noise abatement efforts has continued. GAO identified two key issues for review by the aviation community. First, even though fewer people are exposed to aircraft noise, according to a survey in 1999-2000, more than half of the noise complaints came from people living in areas exposed to noise levels that FAA considers compatible with residential living. Second, if people are allowed to move to areas close to an airport, they may later find themselves exposed to noise levels that FAA considers incompatible with residential living as the airport's operations grow to meet rising demands. Furthermore, residential development in such areas could generate new opposition to airports operations and future expansion plans.

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