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.
After inventing a plane crash on purpose and attempting to obstruct a federal investigation, Trevor Daniel Jacob, a certified pilot, and YouTuber, faces up to 20 years in jail.
On November 24, 2021, Californian Jacob took off in his single-propeller aircraft from Lompoc City Airport (LPC) with the stated goal of landing at Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH) in Mammoth Lakes.
In a plea deal with the US Attorney’s Office, Jacob acknowledged that he never intended for the jet to arrive at its destination. In truth, he had intended to jump out of the plane while it was in flight and record both his descent and crash as well as his own parachute landing.
It was also discovered that Jacob had signed a sponsorship agreement with a business that produced various goods, including wallets, immediately before the tragedy. Jacob agreed to advertise the company’s wallet in the YouTube video he would create as part of the sponsorship agreement.
When the “plane crash” episode occurred, Jacob had multiple video cameras attached to various airplane pieces as well as a parachute, camera, and selfie stick.
Jacob ejected from the plane 35 minutes into the trip while it was passing over the Los Padres National Forest, and recorded himself parachute down to the ground.
Jacob was able to film the plane descending and eventually crashing into the dry bush section of the national forest using the cameras mounted on the airplane and another he had on hand.
Jacob reported the plane crash to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on November 26, 2021. Jacob first promised to assist the investigation in locating his aircraft, but he later admitted to the investigators that he was unaware of the crash site.
But a few weeks later, Jacob and a friend took a helicopter to the scene of the accident. When the debris was lifted by the aircraft and transported to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County, Jacob used straps to secure it before loading it into a trailer connected to his pickup vehicle.
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.
The wallet was advertised in a YouTube video that Jacob posted on December 23, 2021, titled “I Crashed My Airplane,” which also showed him parachuting from the plane and the subsequent accident.
Jacob acknowledged in his plea deal that he meant to profit financially from the video.
“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 also acknowledged lying to federal authorities when he submitted an event report for an aircraft accident that falsely claimed the aircraft lost power completely 35 minutes after takeoff.
When Jacob stated that the plane’s engine had failed and that he had parachuted out of the aircraft because he could find no safe landing choices, he also lied to an FAA aviation safety inspector.
The FAA revoked Jacob’s pilot’s license in April 2022.
At the time of writing, 2.9 million people have watched Jacob’s footage of the plane crash.