YouTuber Trevor Jacob, a former Olympian and self-styled adventurer and entrepreneur, has been sent to jail for six months for deliberately crashing a plane in 2021, filming the whole thing for views, and putting the cherry on top by lying to US investigators about what happened. Even Jacob himself admitted after the sentence that this was the “right decision,” per the BBC.
Jacob posted the video titled “I crashed my airplane” on December 23, 2021, during which you can see him taking off before apparent problems with the front propeller (the original video has been removed: this slightly edited version was uploaded one day later and remains live). Jacobs swears a bit before climbing out of the plane’s door, with his parachute and the even-more-essential selfie stick, and filming the plane as he descends. The plane also has cameras mounted on the body filming the whole thing.
Even at the time of the original video some viewers were sceptical, noting that among other details Jacob had taken off already wearing his parachute, and the plane subsequently crashed into the Los Padres National Forest. Jacob hiked to the site and recovered the video, and two days later reported the crash to the National Transportation Safety Board. This agency told Jacob he was responsible for preserving the wreckage, but he claimed not to know where it had crashed. After this, on December 10 2021, he and a friend travelled to the crash site via helicopter, recovered the wreckage, and later dismantled and disposed of it in bins.
The original video is intended to give the impression that the crash was a legitimate emergency, and at the time of writing has been viewed just over 4.5 million times.
Au contraire, said US prosecutors in California. 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.” The YouTuber “most likely committed this offence to generate social media and news coverage for himself and to obtain financial gain […] this type of ‘daredevil’ conduct cannot be tolerated.”
The charge was one felony count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation. Jacob pleaded guilty and admitted in a plea deal that he had filmed the video as part of a sponsorship tie-in with a wallet company.
“Two years ago I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane and let it crash into the ground, took some bad advice, and decided to remove the wreckage,” said Jacob in a statement posted to Instagram. “Today I was sentenced to 6 months in Federal Prison.” Jacob goes on to thank family and friends, his lawyer, and Federal Judge Walter “for understanding the truth of the situation, and giving me a second chance at life.”
Rather worryingly Jacob says “I look forward to teaching our youth from my mistake” and says he’s been changed as a person, pointing towards a new YouTube video where he discusses his pre-packaged redemption arc at greater length. “I had to go through this to learn, I had to go through this to grow as a person…” says Jacob in the video. “I try to explain this to people, some get it some don’t […] it was either going to be something like this or way worse, in terms of a wake-up call from the universe.”
Forget the parachute: pass the sick bag. Jacob at least admitted that the prison sentence was “the right decision”. A rather incredible coda to this is that the Federal Aviation Administration revoked Jacob’s pilot’s licence in April 2022 following the incident but, as per the above video, he’s now got it back. Would you get in a plane with this man?