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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 March 2006, 10:02 GMT
Spitfire maiden flight re-enacted
More than 22,000 Spitfires were built during the war years
Thousands of people are expected to watch a re-enactment of the very first test flight of the Spitfire - 70 years after it first took to the skies.

Five of the Southampton-built fighter planes will take off from the airport and fly in formation over the city.

Aboard one of them during Sunday's event will be 93-year-old Alex Henshaw, one of the original test pilots.

Some of the veterans who built the first Spitfire, in 1936, and who flew them will watch from Mayflower Park.

Among them is expected to be Dr Gordon Mitchell, the son of Reginald Mitchell, who designed the aircraft at the Supermarine Spitfire factory in Woolston.

RJ Mitchell
Reginald Mitchell died just over a year after the first Spitfire took off

Mr Mitchell died from cancer in 1937, at the age of 42 and only a year after seeing the prototype of his design make its maiden flight from Southampton airport.

More than 20,000 Spitfires - which played a crucial role in the Battle of Britain in World War II - were built at the Woolston site.

The factory was also the reason much of Southampton was destroyed by German bombing during the war.

Weather permitting, the planes will take off at 1630 GMT and fly in salute over the factory site in Woolston, up Southampton Water and back over Eastleigh to the airport at an altitude of 700ft (213m).

The flypast, which is being supported by Southampton City Council, and Southampton Airport, is being arranged by the Solent Sky museum.

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