A YouTuber pilot and former Olympic snowboarder has been jailed for six months in the United States (US) after he crashed a plane in California and then attempted to obstruct a federal investigation.
On November 24, 2021, Trevor Jacob, an experienced pilot, flew from Lompoc City Airport (LPC) to Mammoth Lakes.
However, the flight was part of Jacob’s plan to promote a YouTube video of an aircraft crash with him parachuting out of the plane before impact.
Prior to take off, the 30-year-old pilot had fitted the Taylorcraft BL-65 plane with cameras to capture the crash and then planned to upload the footage to social media and the internet.
After parachuting to the ground, Jacob hiked to the wreck’s location and recovered the data containing the video recording of his flight and the crash of the plane.
On November 26, 2021, he informed the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) about the plane crash and an investigation was launched. Jacob was advised that he was responsible for preserving the wreckage so the agency could examine it.
Jacob agreed to determine the crash location and provide both the coordinates of the downed plane and videos of the crash to NTSB investigators. Three days later, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launched its own investigation into the plane crash.
In the following weeks, Jacob lied to investigators about the location of the wreckage and failed to advise them that he had moved it by helicopter on December 10, 2021.
When he returned the wreckage to LPC he cut up what was left of the aircraft and over the following days deposited parts of the plane into trash bins at the airport and elsewhere.
On December 23, 2021, Jacob uploaded a YouTube video titled ‘I Crashed My Airplane’ that contained a promotion of a wallet and depicted him parachuting from the plane and the subsequent crash. Jacob intended to make money through the video.
Jacob 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 take off.
Jacob also lied to an FAA aviation safety inspector when he said the plane’s engine had quit and, because he could not identify any safe landing options, he had parachuted out of the plane.
Jacob had previously pleaded guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation on June 30, 2023.
On December 4, 2023, he was sentenced by US District Judge John F. Walter for obstructing the probe by “deliberately destroying the wreckage of a plane that he intentionally crashed in Santa Barbara County”.
“It appears that [Jacob] exercised exceptionally poor judgment in committing this offense,” prosecutors in a sentencing memorandum argued. “[Jacob] most likely committed this offense to generate social media and news coverage for himself and to obtain financial gain. Nevertheless, this type of ‘daredevil’ conduct cannot be tolerated.”
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