THE PILOT who flew BBC presenter Richard Hammond to hospital after his high-speed crash has retired after a decade with the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Captain Steve Cobb has flown hundreds of missions for the emergency charity. But none were as high profile as the 2006 rescue of the Top Gear host, who was left fighting for his life after sustaining serious head injuries in a 280mph jet car crash at Elvington Airfield near York.

He went on to make a full recovery, partly because of the speed he was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary.

Mr Cobb, 59, said: “The Richard Hammond incident was certainly the one that generated the most interest, although it was actually one of the easiest jobs I’ve done.

“But landing on that airfield ended up being one of the biggest events for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance – leading to enough money being raised to put a deposit down for our second helicopter G-CEMS.”

His flying career got off the ground by chance in 1986 when Mr Cobb – who was enjoying a successful career in contract IT - spotted a roadside advert for a helicopter trial lesson.

He went on to get his private licence and then a commercial licence and worked as a charter pilot at Leeds Bradford Airport. The company also did a lot of aerial filming, including the credits for Emmerdale.

The experience of aerial photography proved useful experience when he successfully applied for a job as emergency service pilot for police in Newcastle, which also involved often flying at similar heights and speed. The job also included work as a contract pilot ten days a month for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Mr Cobb, who recently moved to Scarborough, is now enjoying his retirement with wife Christine.