YouTube Pilot Pleads Guilty to Obstruction After Deliberately Crashing Airplane to Get Views

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YouTube pilot Trevor Jacob pleaded guilty to a felony charge after deliberately destroying the wreckage of a plane he intentionally crashed. The pilot purposefully downed the plane in Santa Barbara County on November 24, 2021, which he detailed in a YouTube video cleverly titled “I Crashed My Airplane.”

The video, uploaded in December 2021, has over three million views, but may result in Jacob spending up to 20 years in federal prison, according to the Justice Department. This week Jacob pleaded guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation in a plea agreement submitted to the United States District Court in Los Angeles. 

To film the video, Jacob took off from Lompoc City Airport on a solo flight purportedly destined for Mammoth Lakes, as he detailed in his plea agreement. The pilot intended to eject from his aircraft during the flight and to video himself parachuting to the ground, as well as the airplane as it descended and crashed. 35 minutes after taking off, while flying above the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Maria, he ejected himself from the plane.

The plane crashed in Los Padres National Forest. Two days later, Jacob reported the crash to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which launched an investigation. The NTSB told Jacob he was responsible for preserving the wreckage to be examined. In the subsequent days, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also began an investigation into the crash.

According to the plea agreement, Jacob lied to the investigators, saying he did not know where the wreckage was located, despite previously hiking to it to retrieve his video footage. In December, Jacob and a friend flew a helicopter to the crash site and took the wreckage to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County, from where it was hauled to a hangar at Lompoc City Airport. He then destroyed the remaining wreckage.

Jacob confirmed he did so with the intent to obstruct federal authorities and admitted that he intended to profit from the video, which featured promotion of a wallet brand.

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Additionally, he admitted to lying 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. He also lied to an FAA aviation safety inspector when he said the airplane’s engine had quit and he had parachuted out of the plane because he could not identify any safe landing options.

Jacob, who had his pilot’s license revoked in 2022, will make his initial court appearance in the coming weeks.

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