A FORMER RAF pilot has pledged to raise £10,000 for the Motor Neurone Disease Association after his best friend was diagnosed with the disease.

Chris Burwell, from Richmond, in North Yorkshire, also former head of operations at Cobhams, at Durham Tees Valley Airport, is planning a number of fundraising activities in 2014 including a cycling tour of Denmark, a high-altitude trek in the Alps and a Scottish cycling trip.

His fundraising efforts were sparked after his friend of 45 years, Paul Hopkins, was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), a progressive illness that attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord.

Mr Hopkins, 63, was an RAF Harrier pilot before becoming the chief test pilot for BAe systems, where he was the first man to fly a Typhoon jet at twice the speed of sound.

He was diagnosed with MND in 2012 and has since received emotional and practical help from the MND Association and wanted to do something to help other sufferers.

Together, he and Mr Burwell launched the Paul Hopkins MND Association Fightback Fund, which has already raised more than £2,000 for the charity.

Mr Burwell’s ten-year-old son, Will, is getting involved by hiking three days of the Viking Way long distance path this summer.

Mr Burwell said: “Paul is truly one of the outstanding pilots of our generation and a hugely popular and well-known figure in aviation.

“I’m proud to have been his friend for more than 40 years and now he and I are doing all that we can to make sure that his Fightback Fund helps people like Paul to get the support they desperately need when faced with this dreadful disease”.

To find out more about Mr Burwell’s fundraising for Paul’s Fightback Fund, or to donate, visit justgiving.com/paulhopkinsmnd