Hero pilot’s daughter fulfills wish 30 years on

IT has been almost 30 years since legendary Mexican pilot Ruben Ocana flew into the hearts of the people of Mallow but tragically he never fulfilled his dream to return to the north Cork town where he was hailed a hero.

However, his daughter Mariana yesterday visited the riverside racetrack where, in 1983, her father managed to land an €8.5 million luxury Gulfstream II jet saving the lives of four passengers and his crew.

The 15-seat aircraft was travelling from New Jersey in the US to Munich in Germany when it was unable to land at fog-bound Shannon Airport for refueling. It was diverted to Cork but with fuel running out it had to make an emergency landing on the five furlong straight at the riverside track. Captain Ocaña and his crew spent almost six weeks in Mallow as an airstrip costing €150,000 was laid to get the jet airborne again. A year later, he returned to Mallow with his wife and family, but always intended making another visit to the town where he was treated as a celebrity.

Early last year he passed away, aged 81, after a brief illness, without fulfilling his dream of returning to the town where he had made many friends.

But yesterday his daughter Mariana, a teacher, honoured her father’s wish and visited Mallow, where she was accorded a civic welcome by Mayor Willie O’Regan and the town council, and visited Cork Racecourse.

“In the name of my father I want to thank you and the people of Mallow for the way you received him at the time,” she said.

Mariana, who was due to travel on to Madrid, was last night trying to change her schedule in order to attend the showing of The Runway by Fastnet Films at Galway Film Fleadh on Saturday.

The film, partly shot in Goleen and Schull in West Cork, is loosely based on her father’s emergency landing in Mallow.

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