A YouTuber who posted a video of his single-engine airplane crashing in a California national forest in 2021 has admitted in a guilty plea agreement that he deliberately crashed the plane to get enough video views for a sponsorship deal.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Central California, Trevor Jacob, a 29-year-old former Olympic snowboarder turned YouTube video host, agreed on Friday to plead guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation. He will formally enter the plea in court in the coming weeks and could face up to 20 years in prison, though he will likely receive a lesser sentence as part of the plea deal.
On Dec. 23, 2021, Jacob posted a video to his YouTube which showed his plane appearing to suffer a propeller failure as it flew over the Los Padres National Forest. Cameras mounted to the plane and to Jacob showed him jumping out of the plane with a parachute before it crashed into the mountains below.
The video, titled “I Crashed My Plane,” has over 4 million views on YouTube at time of writing.
In a press release, federal attorneys say that Jacob told investigators that he had intended to use the video for a sponsorship deal with an unnamed wallet company. Jacob also admitted to hiring a helicopter company to airlift the plane wreckage from the Los Padres forest and later cut up the destroyed plane to dispose of it.
Jacob also confessed to lying to a Federal Aviation Administration official when asked whether he knew where the plane wreckage was located and claimed that he had suffered full loss of power while flying the plane and could not find a safe place to land the plane.
Scrutiny surrounding the plane crash came just weeks after Jacob’s video was posted, as The New York Times published an article in January 2022 speaking with aviation experts about the crash. Jacob told the Times that he “did not purposely crash my plane for views on YouTube.” The FAA revoked Jacob’s pilot license in April 2022 after it was determined that there were several locations Jacob could have safely glided the plane to land.
“No reasonable person flies an airplane with the intention of jumping out of it and allowing the aircraft to just fly off in the distance,” aviation lawyer Timothy Loranger told the Times. “It just goes against everything that a pilot stands for. Safety is absolutely paramount.”