The U.S. Army has taken a step toward opening the Phillips Army Airfield at Aberdeen Proving Ground to civilian and commercial traffic.

Military officials announced Monday that the Army approved the concept of expanding the airfield's use for the community, but wants several issues resolved before moving ahead with the plan.

The Army must answer questions of security and liability, officials said. They also are concerned that the opening of the airfield could set a precedent for other military installations.

Officials announced approval of the plan after the completion of a study by APG, the Aberdeen Economic Development Commission, the state Aviation Administration and the county Economic Development Advisory Board.

If the plan is pursued, Aberdeen and Harford County officials would be responsible for finding commuter airlines to serve the airfield and forupgrading the facility for civilian passengers.

The opening date for the airfield has not been determined.

Aberdeen town officials requested the army to consider opening the airfield in 1988, saying that the services will encourage economic development in the county.

The airfield, which is in APG's high-security area, serves the army's Test and Evaluation Command. The airport is about one mile from the town of Aberdeen.

Phillips Airfield has three hard-surface runways, ranging from 5,000 to 8,000 feet in length.

The facility was named for Lt. Wendell K. Phillips, an Army Air Service pilot who died in a plane crash at APG in 1923.

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