The Quick Report

A YouTuber Crashed a Plane on Purpose — Now He’s Going to Prison

Trevor Jacob is a 30-year-old social media influencer and pilot from Lompoc, California. Jacob describes himself as “an experienced pilot, skydiver, and former Olympic athlete.” The Youtuber crashed a plane to boost views of videos on his YouTube channel. The plot came after a company agreed to sponsor a video that would promote a brand of wallets.

Jacob has 143,000 subscribers on YouTube. In December 2021, he posted a 13-minute video titled “I Crashed My Airplane.” The clip was the runaway success Jacob had hoped for. The video amassed 4.4 million views before he stopped public access and made it private.

In November 2021, the video clip was captured using several video cameras that were mounted on different parts of the aircraft. He also had a video camera showing his airplane’s takeoff from Lompoc City Airport. A selfie-stick camera captured him inside the plane.

About thirty-five minutes after departure, Jacob recorded himself pretending to respond to a fake engine failure. He also pretended to decide to parachute out of the plane. He ejected from his Taylorcraft BL-65.

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The Hoax Falls Apart

According to prosecutors from the US Attorney’s Office, Jacob documented his dramatic hike back to the wreckage, where he retrieved the video footage from the cameras on the plane. Then he uploaded his video “I Crashed My Airplane” in late December 2021.

Initially, Jacob agreed to provide the location and videos of the crash to National Transportation Safety Board investigators. However, the US Attorney’s Office said that Jacob later “lied to investigators that he did not know the wreckage’s location.”

To a casual observer, this would be a major flaw in Jacob’s scheme. Something Colombo or Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote would have seen right through in a second. The only way to get the real-time flight footage would be to recover it from the plane afterward. How could Jacobs do this without going back to the plane after the crash? To do that, he would have to know where the plane was. It appears to be an obvious lie.


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In the subsequent weeks after the crash, prosecutors say that Jacob also “then cut up and destroyed the airplane wreckage.” Investigators later discovered Jacob moved parts of the wreckage via helicopter. Prosecutors allege Jacobs dumped pieces of the airplane into trash cans in different locations. The US attorney’s office says this “was done with the intent to obstruct federal authorities from investigating.” They also say that everything that happened was done by Jacob to “make money through the video.”

Prosecutors also claim Jacob lied about the cause of the crash. Jacob falsely told an FAA aviation safety inspector that he ditched the plane because the engine had quit. He allegedly told investigators the plane “experienced the full loss of power” soon after takeoff. They also say another false claim was his statement to the FAA inspector that he only parachuted out of the plane after deciding there was no safe place to land. Prosecutors allege the Youtuber crashed and intentionally abandoned the working plane. That he purposely pointed the aircraft toward “a dry brush area in the Los Padres National Forest.”

YouTuber’s Stunt Resulted in a Felony that Carries a 20-Year Sentence

Federal prosecutors from the US Attorney’s office brought charges against Trevor Daniel Jacob, 30, of Lompoc, California. Jacob was charged with concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation and one count of destruction.

Federal prosecutors said the Youtuber crashed the plane Santa Barbara County, California, to gain online views. Prosecutors added that he also deliberately destroyed the wreckage of an airplane to instruct the investigation.

If convicted, Jacob was facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Justice Department Lays out What Actually Happened

In the hearing, prosecutors laid out what Jacob had done.

“On November 24, 2021, Jacob took off in his airplane from Lompoc City Airport on a solo flight purportedly destined for Mammoth Lakes,” according to a press release by the Justice Department. “Jacob did not intend to reach his destination, but instead planned to eject from his aircraft during the flight and video himself parachuting to the ground and his airplane as it descended and crashed.

“Prior to taking off, Jacob mounted several video cameras on different parts of the airplane and equipped himself with a parachute, video camera, and selfie stick. Approximately 35 minutes after taking off, while flying above the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Maria, Jacob ejected from the airplane and videoed himself parachuting to the ground.

“Using the video camera mounted on the selfie stick and the video cameras he mounted on the airplane, Jacob was able to record the airplane as it descended and crashed into a dry brush area in Los Padres National Forest. After parachuting to the ground, Jacob hiked to the location of the wreck and recovered the data containing the video recording of his flight and the crash of the airplane.

“On November 26, 2021, Jacob informed the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) about the plane crash. The NTSB, which launched an investigation into the crash on or about that same day, told Jacob 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 weeks following the plane crash, Jacob lied to investigators that he did not know the wreckage’s location. In fact, on December 10, 2021, Jacob and a friend flew by helicopter to the wreckage site. There, Jacob 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 Lompoc City Airport and unloaded it in a hangar. 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, which was done with the intent to obstruct federal authorities from investigating the November 24 plane crash.

“On December 23, 2021, Jacob uploaded a YouTube video titled, “I Crashed My Airplane,” that contained a promotion of the wallet and depicted him parachuting from the plane and the aircraft’s 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 takeoff.” The report continued, “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.”

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YouTuber Makes Plea Bargain for Less Prison Time

Prosecutors agreed to a plea bargain on June 30, 2023. Jacob pleaded guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation.

On December 4, 2023, Trevor Daniel Jacob faced United States District Judge John F. Walter in a sentencing hearing. He was sentenced to six months in prison.

“It appears that [Jacob] exercised exceptionally poor judgment in committing this offense,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum cited by the Justice Department. “[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.”