YouTuber pilot faces jail for crashing plane as stunt

Photo Courtesy Bangkok Post

A YouTube pilot who bailed out midair and deliberately sent his plane crashing into the ground to boost viewership on his channel could face up to 20 years in prison, US authorities announced recently.

In a video watched by nearly three million people titled “I crashed my airplane,” Trevor Jacob, 29 years old, appears to experience engine trouble while flying over southern California in November 2021. The dramatic footage shows Jacob ejecting from the single-engine plane, selfie stick in hand, and parachuting into the dense vegetation of the Los Padres National Forest. Cameras placed throughout the aircraft capture its uncontrolled descent into the forest and eventual crash landing.

Jacob is seen filming himself hiking to the wreckage, where he seems dismayed to discover that the water he packed has vanished. Viewers watch him push through poison oak and over hills as he appears to struggle in finding civilization, giving regular updates about his thirst and feelings of being lost. Eventually, he stops to scoop water from a stream and soon after, comes across a vehicle and apparent salvation as night sets in.

In the weeks following the incident, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) initiated a probe into the crash, and Jacob was ordered to preserve the wreckage. The YouTuber informed officials he did not know the plane’s location; however, according to a plea deal filed in Los Angeles, Jacob and a friend winched the wreckage out of the forest with a helicopter two weeks after the incident, after previously recovering data from the onboard cameras. Over the subsequent days, he cut the plane into small pieces and disposed of the parts in rubbish bins in and around Lompoc City Airport.

The FAA, which regulates flying in the United States, revoked Jacob’s pilot’s license in April 2022. In a plea agreement, Jacob admitted to intending to obstruct federal authorities when he disposed of the wreckage and confessed to creating the video to generate profit from a wallet company sponsorship. According to a statement from the Department of Justice, “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 FAA aviation safety inspector when he said the airplane’s engine had quit and, because he could not identify any safe landing options, he had parachuted out of the plane.”

He has agreed to plead guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation, a crime which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. Jacob is expected to formally enter his plea in Los Angeles in the coming weeks and face sentencing at a later date reports Bangkok Post.

The video he posted attracted significant criticism in the weeks and months after its publication. Numerous pilots and aviation experts commented that Jacob failed to take even basic steps to restart his plane’s seemingly troubled engine. Others noted that he could have easily and safely glided the aircraft to a landing spot, and wearing a parachute while flying a small aircraft was highly unusual.

World News

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With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!