Trevor Daniel Jacob, who is also a former Olympic snowboarder, pleaded guilty to “destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation” in June, according to a U.S. federal news release.
The plea came after Jacob, 30, staged a plane crash during a solo flight from Lompoc, Calif., to Mammoth Lakes, Calif., on Nov. 24, 2021. Jacob recorded the entire incident and posted footage of himself abandoning a 1940 Taylorcraft plane to YouTube.
In a nearly 13-minute video posted in December 2021 titled I Crashed My Plane — which has been viewed 4.4 million times — Trevor Jacob parachutes out of the small plane flying over Los Padres National Forest in California.
While recording the ordeal, Jacob, who is an experienced pilot, claimed the plane experienced engine troubles, causing him to abandon it mid-flight. With his parachute already on, Jacob jumped from the side door, leaving the plane without a pilot.
Upon landing in a thorny bush, Jacob spoke to the camera, saying he was “just so happy to be alive.” He continued to document his hike through the forest, including finding the destroyed remains of his crashed plane.
While there, Jacob retrieved video from the cameras on the plane’s wing and tail, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California.
Jacob’s YouTube video contained a paid sponsorship promotion for a wallet-making company. Prosecutors said Jacob intended to make money through the social media post.
Almost instantly after the video was shared online, fans, media and aviation experts began to question the stunt’s legitimacy.
As part of his guilty plea, Jacob admitted that he never intended to finish the flight.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Jacob only informed authorities about the crash two days after the incident. He was told he must preserve the wreckage.
Jacob told authorities at the time he did not know where the plane was, despite having earlier hiked to the crash site.
On Dec. 10, 2021, almost three weeks after the incident, Jacob and another friend flew in a helicopter to the crash site. They used the helicopter to lift pieces of the wreckage into a pickup truck to be transported to Lompoc City Airport. There, prosecutors said the plane debris was then cut into smaller pieces and discarded in trash bins around the airport, and elsewhere, over several days.
In their memorandum, prosecutors wrote that 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,” they concluded.
In April 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sent Jacob a letter saying he had violated federal aviation regulations by operating his single-engine plane in a “careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.”
The authority noted Jacob was already wearing his parachute before the engine troubles began and said he made no attempt to contact air traffic control before abandoning the plane.
The FAA said Jacob could have landed safely, and as a result, revoked his private pilot licence.