How far would you go in the name of views, likes, and subscriptions? For one YouTuber, crashing his aircraft into the ground seemed to be worth the risk.
Trevor Daniel Jacob, 29, a licensed pilot and YouTuber, faces up to 20 years in federal prison after purposely staging a plane crash and attempting to obstruct federal investigation.
Jacob, from California, flew his single-propeller plane from Lompoc City Airport (LPC) on November 24, 2021, with a purported intention to arrive at Mammoth Lakes’ Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH).
Jacob admitted in a plea agreement to the United States Attorney’s Office that he never intended for the plane to reach its destination.In fact, he had planned to eject from his aircraft during the flight and film himself parachuting to the ground – as well as his plane as it descended and crashed.
It was also found that, just before the incident, Jacob had secured a sponsorship deal with a company that made various products, including wallets. Pursuant to the sponsorship deal, Jacob agreed to promote the company’s wallet in the YouTube video that he would post.
On the day of the “plane crash” incident, Jacob mounted several video cameras on different parts of the airplane and equipped himself with a parachute, video camera and selfie stick.
35 minutes into the flight, while the aircraft was flying above the Los Padres National Forest, Jacob ejected from the airplane and filmed himself parachuting to the ground.
Using the cameras mounted on the aircraft and another he had on hand, Jacob was able to capture footage of the plane descending, and eventually crashing into the national forest’s dry bush area.
On November 26, 2021, Jacob informed the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) about the plane crash. At the time, Jacob agreed to help the investigation locate his aircraft, but later told investigators that he did not know the crash location.
Weeks later, however, Jacob and a friend flew by helicopter to the wreckage site. Jacob then used straps to secure the wreckage, which the helicopter lifted and carried to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County, where it was loaded onto a trailer attached to Jacob’s pickup truck.
Jacob drove the wreckage to LPC airport and unloaded it in a hangar. He has since confessed that he then cut up and destroyed the airplane wreckage and, over the course of a few days, deposited the detached parts of the wrecked airplane into trash bins at the airport and elsewhere. As part of his plea agreement, he admitted that this was done with the intent to obstruct federal authorities from investigating the November 24, 2021 plane crash.
On December 23, 2021, Jacob uploaded a YouTube video titled ‘I Crashed My Airplane’ that contained a promotion of the wallet and depicting him parachuting from the plane and the aircraft’s subsequent crash.
In his plea agreement, Jacob admitted that he intended to make money through the video.
Viewers’ reactions to the video have been mixed.
“I train pilots for emergency situations such as this. The main rule in any emergency, and I can not stress this enough, never, ever forget your selfie stick,” YouTube user James Lee said.
Jacob further admitted he lied to federal investigators when he submitted an aircraft accident incident report that falsely indicated that the aircraft experienced a full loss of power approximately 35 minutes after takeoff.
Jacob also lied to an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector when he claimed the airplane’s engine had failed and that, as he could not identify any safe landing options, he had parachuted out of the plane.
Jacob’s pilot license was revoked by the FAA in April 2022.
Jacob’s airplane crash video has 2.9 million views at the time of writing.