Prince William County officials are optimistic about a proposal they made last month to the Federal Aviation Administration for a $70,000 grant that would allow them to begin planning for a new airport. According to deputy planner John Schofield, the FAA and the state have been "very encouraging" about the grant, which may be awarded this week.

The county decided to apply for the funds when it became apparent this summer that the privately owned Woodbridge Airport will close within two years and the land sold to a housing developer. Since the only other airport in the county is in Manassas, Schofield said, it seems reasonable although not certain that a new airport would be located in the eastern end of the county.

The Board of Supervisors did not have to formally authorize the grant application, although all its members indicated to county officials that they think the grant is a good idea, according to deputy executive Richard Noble. The board's vote will be necessary for other steps along the way to another airport, including the adoption of any report that results from the planning study and the decision whether to implement the study's recommendations. Asked how long it would be before an airport could be on the drawing board, Schofield replied, "I don't know. I've never built an airport before." The FAA will fund 90 percent of the grant; the state and the county will split the remaining 10 percent.