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Pilot had been disciplined for dangerous flying, lying years before Yorba Linda crash

Pilot had been disciplined for dangerous flying, lying years before Yorba Linda crash
Pieces of a Cessna airplane that broke apart in midair lie in a Yorba Linda neighborhood. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Years before his plane plunged into an Orange County suburb, killing him and four others on the ground, Antonio Pastini was disciplined twice by federal regulators for flying in dangerous conditions and lying about his credentials, records show.

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration told The Times on Friday that Pastini had twice submitted name changes to the agency, changing his name first in 1991 from Jordan Albert Isaacson to Jordan Ike Aaron, then in 2008 to Antonio Peter Pastini.

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His license was suspended twice by the FAA when he was named Jordan Isaacson, according to records kept by the Library of Congress. In 1977, records show, he lost his license for 120 days after flying from Las Vegas to Long Beach in cloudy, icy conditions and lying to an air traffic controller about his credentials.

He falsely told the controller he had an “IFR clearance,” an administrative law judge wrote, meaning he had both the instruments and training to fly in low-visibility conditions.

“In short,” wrote the judge, Jerrell R. Davis, “he allowed his motivation to reach Long Beach to dictate that the flight should be made and continued.”

The disregard for airspace rules posed “a potential threat to himself, his passenger and other users of the system,” Davis said.

Three years later, his license was suspended for 30 days after Davis, who again was adjudicating his case, found his plane was behind on inspections, carried only an expired temporary registration and was leaking hydraulic fluid from a brake, records show.

The leaking brake and other technical problems made the plane “unairworthy,” Davis said.

The FAA confirmed to The Times that the pilot in the two incidents was Pastini, adding that the agency was not aware of other disciplinary actions against him.

Pastini was carrying this Chicago police badge when he crashed Sunday.
Pastini was carrying this Chicago police badge when he crashed Sunday. (Orange County Sheriff's Department)

Sunday afternoon, Pastini took off from Fullerton Municipal Airport in his Cessna 414. About 10 minutes later, his plane broke apart and showered a Yorba Linda neighborhood with burning wreckage. Pastini, 75, was killed, along with four people in a home that was struck and set on fire by the debris.

Investigators have not said what caused the crash. Sources have told The Times that they have no evidence the crash was anything but some type of accident and that there were no signs of foul play.

Investigators recovered credentials and a badge that led the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to identify Pastini as a retired Chicago police officer. His daughter, Julia Ackley, also described Pastini as a former Chicago cop.

Days later, Chicago police said Pastini never worked for them. The revelation casts into doubt two decades of interviews Pastini gave with newspapers in Nevada, where he lived and owned restaurants, describing himself as a veteran of the Chicago force.

He recounted to the Reno Gazette-Journal in 1997 a rollicking adolescence in Chicago, marked by rumbles between his Italian clan and the neighborhood Germans. They were all, in his own words, “bad kids.”

“We were a pretty well-organized, greased little group of thugs,” he said.

Despite his rough-and-tumble youth, he told the newspaper, he joined the Chicago police and served for 17 years before retiring in 1986 at the rank of detective sergeant.

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Ackley, Pastini’s daughter, declined to speak to a reporter about her father’s name changes.

Pastini appears to have lived in Illinois, at least for a time. His 1980 discipline from the FAA was mailed to an address in Skokie, a village about 15 miles north of Chicago. When the FAA disciplined him in 1977, his address was in Long Beach, records show.

In a 2008 interview with the Nevada Appeal in Carson City, Pastini said he spent 21 years with the Chicago police. He attributed the success of his first restaurant — a Chicago-style deli in Reno — to his law enforcement background.

“A couple of cops came by and found out I used to be a cop too, and it became a cop hangout,” Pastini said. “It was good food. Great food.”

When the deli opened in 1991, the Reno Gazette-Journal published a story with the headline, “Ex-cop brings piece of Chicago with him.”

“Rather than nab criminals,” it begins, “former Chicago police officer Tony Pastini has turned in his badge and opened a Reno delicatessen.”

Pastini was carrying a Chicago police badge when he crashed Sunday. The owner had reported it lost in 1978, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department said.

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