In a shocking turn of events, Trevor Daniel Jacob, a 29-year-old YouTuber, has admitted to intentionally crashing his airplane for the sake of online views.
Facing federal charges, Jacob pleaded guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation, potentially leading to a substantial prison sentence of up to 20 years, according to an announcement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California.
The incident occurred on November 24, 2021, when Jacob, hailing from Lompoc, California, took off from Lompoc City Airport, claiming he was en route to Mammoth Lakes. Little did authorities know that this flight would soon turn into a staged disaster for the sake of internet attention.
Equipped with multiple cameras capturing various angles, Jacob orchestrated a chilling spectacle. Approximately 35 minutes after takeoff, he deliberately ejected himself from the aircraft above the Los Padres National Forest, filming the entire event. In a YouTube video titled “I Crashed My Airplane,” which has since garnered over 3.2 million views, viewers can witness Jacob’s feigned panic as he pretends that his engine has failed, ultimately leading to his supposed need to abandon the plane. Wearing a parachute, he successfully jumped from the aircraft while maintaining his camera recording, ensuring every detail of his staged crash was captured.
Once safely on the ground, Jacob embarked on a trek towards the wreckage, capturing his hike and expressing gratitude for his survival while claiming to be increasingly thirsty. His self-documented journey included scenes of him drinking water from a nearby stream, courtesy of his trusty selfie stick. As night fell, Jacob spotted headlights in the distance, ultimately encountering nearby farmers who became unwitting participants in his deceptive narrative, providing him with the illusion of being “rescued.”
Jacob’s deceit continued when he reported the crash to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) two days later, initiating a formal investigation. However, the web of lies he had spun began to unravel. In subsequent weeks, Jacob misled investigators by claiming ignorance of the wreckage’s location. Astonishingly, on December 10, 2021, he and a friend returned to the crash site via helicopter. There, they strapped the wreckage to the helicopter and transported it to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County. From there, the damaged plane was loaded onto a trailer attached to Jacob’s pickup truck, which he then took to Lompoc City Airport.
Over the course of several days, Jacob disassembled the plane and disposed of its parts in various trash bins scattered around the airport. The motive behind this destructive act was revealed in the plea agreement, indicating that Jacob aimed to obstruct federal investigators from discovering the true cause of the crash, all while seeking to monetize the video by promoting a wallet.
Further compounding his legal troubles, Jacob admitted to lying in his aircraft accident incident report, falsely indicating that the plane suffered a complete loss of power shortly after takeoff. He also deceived a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) aviation safety inspector by fabricating a story of engine failure and his subsequent parachute exit due to the absence of safe landing options.
As a consequence, the FAA revoked Jacob’s pilot’s license in 2022. However, the full extent of his punishment remains uncertain, as the sentencing date has yet to be determined.
This bizarre case serves as a stark reminder of the extreme lengths some individuals are willing to go for online notoriety and the potential legal consequences they may face when crossing the line between entertainment and criminal activity.