SOUTHAMPTON'S skies are set to come alive in a unique flying festival which will see the largest formation of Spitfires in recent history.

The Seawings 2000 airshow, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, will take place above Southampton Water on Sunday, June 4.

In addition to a flight of 17 Spitfires - the largest number flown in formation in recent years - it will feature military fast jets and rare seaplanes, many of which were developed in the city.

As well as commemorating the Battle of Britain, Seawings 2000 will also honour Mike Andrews and Peter Shave who died when a Catalina seaplane crashed on Southampton Water in July 1998.

Starting at 11am, Seawings 2000 will run for six hours and will feature water-based entertainment.

The flying festival will also include a tribute to the D-Day landings, as some of the original invasion fleet left from Southamton Water.

This spectacle will also pay tribute to Flight Lieutenant James Nicholson who was awarded a Victoria Cross for his daring deeds in the Battle of Britain above the city.

When his Hurricane plane was hit and caught fire over Southampton in August 1940, he remained with his fighter and downed a further German aircraft before baling out and landing in Millbrook.

City mayor Derek Burke said: "Seawings 2000 is a tribute to the thousands of Southampton people involved in the aviation industry."

He added: "It promi ses to be an exciting, memorable and, for many, a poignant day."

Converted for the new archive on 25 January 2001. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.