For a while, it seemed Utahns would have the unusual opportunity of watching a candidate for governor defend himself in a federal civil trial, only a month and a half before the election.

But word from U.S. District Chief Judge Bruce S. Jenkins' office Thursday was that the suit, filed by the Federal Aviation Administration against independent gubernatorial Merrill A. Cook, has been postponed until early March. The suit was originally scheduled to start Thursday.The FAA sued in 1986, claiming one of Cook's companies, Cook Slurry Co., damaged the agency's private road on Lake Mountain in the western part of Utah County. The aviation agency asked for a ban on the company's use of the three-mile route. The FAA also wants the court to order payment of $47,000 for damage done to the road by heavy equipment.

Cook countered that the road is a public right of way in use since the 19th century. He said his company spent $100,000 to improve the road when its trucks used the route from 1978 to 1983.

The trial is now scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. on March 7, 1989. By then the election will be long over, so Utahns won't see a gubernatorial candidate in court.

But they just might see a Gov. Cook there.