YouTuber sentenced to prison after intentionally crashing his plane

Trevor Jacob’s infamous stunt with a single-prop Taylorcraft BL-65 sparked two years of federal investigations, fabrications, and millions of views.
Trevor Jacob jumping out of plane midair over mountains
Trevor Jacob initially claimed his plane malfunctioned midair, causing him to leap from the cockpit while wearing a parachute. YouTube

In case any readers need reminding: please do not intentionally crash your small prop plane into a national forest for the social media likes. If you somehow still choose to abandon commonsense in the hopes of gaining an ad sponsorship, at the very least, do not lie to the National Transportation Safety Board about your stunt. And, if absolutely nothing else, definitely do not treat your plane’s wreckage like you’re covering up a murder scene. You will probably go to prison.

Case in point: Trevor Jacob, a 30-year-old online YouTuber sentenced on Monday to six months in prison in the ensuing aftermath of his 12-minute YouTube video, “I Crashed My Airplane.”

News of Jacob’s punishment arrived in a Monday Department of Justice announcement, via The Verge. The “experienced pilot, skydiver, and former Olympic athlete” first uploaded his video-turned-felonious evidence to the platform on December 23, 2021. The footage, taken from multiple video cameras mounted to his single-prop Taylorcraft BL-65 and a camera attached to a selfie stick, shows Jacob abandoning his flight midair due to an alleged power failure (later revealed to be false) and unfurling a parachute above California’s Los Padres National Forest near Santa Maria. Jacob captures brief shots of the plane’s uncontrolled descent as he floats to the ground, while onboard cameras record the subsequent crash landing in dry brush within the federally protected area.

Jacob only informed the NTSB of the crash two days later, at which time the agency told Jacob to preserve the wreckage and provide coordinates to its location—neither of which he did, says the DOJ.

Jacob instead “lied to investigators” for weeks, claiming he could not find the crash site. Meanwhile, he and a conspirator flew a helicopter back to the plane’s remains, strapped the wreckage to it, and traveled back to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County. Once there, they transferred the evidence into a trailer attached to Jacob’s truck, drove to Lompoc City Airport hangar, and proceeded to break down the debris over the ensuing days.

[Related: Influencer fined for hitting golf ball into the Grand Canyon.]

“[Jacob] deposited the detached parts of the wrecked airplane into trash bins at the airport and elsewhere… with the intent to obstruct federal authorities,” reads a portion of the DOJ announcement.

Nearly a month to the day after the stunt, Jacob uploaded their “I Crashed My Airplane” video to YouTube, which included clear scenes of Jacob traveling to the wreckage site reportedly 20 minutes after parachuting to the ground. “I Crashed My Plane” also satisfied the conditions of a prior sponsorship deal according to the DOJ, which stipulated Jacob would promote a wallet company’s products within an upcoming video post.

Jacob continued to maintain his innocence in a January 2022 statement to the Federal Aviation Administration, claiming the doomed flight was intended to spread the ashes of his deceased friend, Johnny Strange, over the Sierra Nevada mountains. Strange died in 2015 during a BASE jumping accident.

Although initially facing up to 20 years in prison, Jacob received his six month sentence after pleading guilty in April to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation. Any opportunities to carry out similar airplane antics are unlikely once he is released—the FAA revoked the ninth-place 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics snowboarder’s private pilot license in April 2022 during its own investigation.

“During this flight, you opened the left side pilot door before you claimed the engine had failed,” the FAA wrote at the time.