YouTuber Jailed For Intentional Crash Stunt

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Trevor Jacob, the California pilot and YouTuber who intentionally crashed a Taylorcraft for video views in 2021, will spend six months in a federal prison for the stunt. Jacob took a plea deal in the protracted case and pleaded guilty to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation. That charge resulted from Jacob, 30, a former Olympian and YouTube pitchman for a wallet company, and one of his buddies hauling the wreckage of the T-craft out of the mountains north of Santa Barbara with a helicopter before Jacob cut it into small pieces for disposal in various trash bins. But the most damning evidence of the illegal flight was a video posted to YouTube in which he purported to jump from the plane (at 11,000 feet) because of an engine failure.

Commenters were quick to point out obvious flaws and inconsistencies in the story that were captured by numerous cameras on the plane and on the phone video he shot during his parachute descent to the flat and open valley below. The crash sequence was filmed in November of 2021 but Jacob didn’t post the edited version until Christmas Day. Not long after, the FAA came calling and in April of 2022 revoked his pilot certificate. The Department of Justice followed, and Jacob was charged with a list of felonies before the plea deal whittled it down to the single count of obstruction. “It appears that [Jacob] exercised exceptionally poor judgment in committing this offense,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “[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.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

39 COMMENTS

  1. A fitting sentence I think. Murdering an innocent airplane, risked fire and environmental damage to people/flora/fauna on the ground, lied to federal authorities, all in the narcissistic pursuit of ‘likes’ and money.

    I hope he gets out in 6 months with a new attitude. I wonder if he lost his certificates and if he will ever fly PIC again?

    • I am a bit surprised ro see a comment containing concern for “environmental damage to flora and fauna” here on Avweb. Every article about SAF and electric aircraft are met with explicit disregard for the environment, but when it comes to prosecuting an idiot for a stunt, all of a sudden the environment is important. Interesting, isn’t it…

      • The fact that I know e-planes, e-cars etc. are a boondoggle does not obviate my love and respect for God’s Creation, especially the natural beauty of California.

      • If he can find an instructor who will provide him the necessary training and signoffs. And good luck with that; I wouldn’t go near him, personally.

      • Not that it matters now, but the FAA’s emergency order of revocation also barred Jacobs from reapplying for a year.

        The letter was sent on April 11, 2022. No word on whether he has reapplied or not.

  2. I don’t agree that he can possibly retest and get his ticket back. He should have been barred for life from that stunt. Getting my license was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I am not about to do or say anything to make the feds take it away. I even had to retake the test in a different state to get through it. All on my dime. Perhaps this is the very example Mr. Stunt pilot needs to experience.

  3. At the most fundamental level, the FAA exists to “… prevent things from falling out of the sky, and onto your head.”

    Stunts like these breach this concept since he intentionally placed people and property on the ground at risk.

    Yeah, this guy can get his certs back … but due diligence warrants a psych evaluation (all the “rage” these days) before he does.

  4. I hope they do the same thing with the Red Bull hero’s. A Austrian company who deliberately put their finger in the eye of our regulatory system for their own personal gains. “Book-em-Dano”.

    • Exactly, I was just thinking that this stunt was just slightly more egregious than that ‘jackass” Red Bull group. The only thing RB did was advertise their “Plane Swap” ahead of time.

  5. Why hasn’t this YouTube video been taken off line?
    Is this guy still making money from ‘clicks’ while in jail?

    • The revenue ratio on YT is $1 per 1K views. That video was seen 54K times, so he made only $54 on it so far (though from what I hear that’s a lot of money in prison)

  6. Took the Fed’s a long time to prosecute. A certificate is just a piece of paper. He’s a YouTube, money nor jail time will not discourage him from doing something just as stupid.
    Maybe in his next video he won’t be so lucky. Death always discourages people from doing anything else that might be stupid.

  7. Add another 50 years for deliberately destroying a good T-Craft. And he jumped with his headset on. Hope he unplugged it. I haven’t looked at comments from youtube, but the whole thing looks like it was filmed at different stages. The air must have been really still, and that T-Craft superbly rigged for it to have glided so straight and level for so long.

  8. 6 months seems light. A fine at least equal to the value of the T-Craft would have been appropriate as well. Adjusted to market rate typical at time of sentencing.

  9. The PP-ASEL or PP-whatever, is a certificate of demonstrated ability. Once you have demonstrated that ability; it’s done. You know how to fly. Whether it’s legal or not is another matter. At any rate I don’t think he’ll be flying again. He can’t post it to Instagram or YouTube so he won’t be interested in it. I wonder if he’ll be YouTubing from prison?

  10. Well, this isn’t the 1930s any more and the days of the old barnstormers are over. If one wants to continue flying, there are now stricter protocols for safety and conduct. That is simply the reality of flying in this era.

  11. Adam and Jamie on “Mythbusters” destroyed plenty of vehicles, but in tightly controlled ways to illustrate a scientific point, and always under the supervision of the relevant authorities. Film production companies regularly destroy aircraft in eye-catching (or gut-wrenching, if you’re a pilot/owner) ways. Thankfully, they are fewer now than before the advent of digital CGI/Mo-Cap.

    This guy was cheap, lazy, and venal. He was charged with multiple felonies but managed to skate on all but one. With that, and his YouTube visibility, I won’t be surprised if he runs for Congress.

    • Any chance of a post without a mindless political dig? Some of your comments are valuable and intelligent but your prejudice detracts from your credibility.

      • I’d like that, too. You are teetering on the edge sometimes but your basic arguments are generally valuable enough that I let them stand. There are plenty of places you can go to yell about politicians. Keep it to aviation here and politics that directly affects it.

        • Gee Russ – and William;

          You don’t recognize humor when you see it?!?! Maybe not the best joke but clearly a joke. There are no politics in there anywhere. No party or issue is mentioned – at all. It is a lampoon of the current state of the system. There are many many many responses on here that have real political content and no one says a word. Back ‘er down a bit boys. Not everyone is as political as you apparently are. Some of us are just having fun!

  12. This is absolutely disgusting………6 months is totally unacceptable. I blame the FAA whole heartily for this. He should have gotten the max all the way around. Its because of these people the world is in the state its in. There is NO PUNISHMENT for crime any longer….NONE. Just disappointed Beyond belief.

    • Your beef is not with the FAA, they did all they could with the emergency revocation (that’s the limit of their power and authority). It’s the US Attorney that charges and prosecutes the criminal case.

  13. The purpose, at least in principle, of a penitentiary is penance. Any philosophers or theologians, psychologists or counselors among us who could suggest some guidelines for the healing of the soul of this pilot? We have excoriated him enough. Now is the time for renewal and growth.

  14. I’m not the least impressed (positively) by what this guy did. Is he salvageable? Six months in prison could be a long time for someone not used to it. There are different levels of that (experience) obviously, depending on where, what kind of security, etc.

    How long does (whoever foots the bill) want to continue to spend to keep him there?

    Not sure about the permanent revocation calls either. He could have, but didn’t hurt anyone. I wouldn’t apply that logic to the guy who pulled the fire extinguishers though. He completely forfeited it, imo.

  15. In America, unlike much of the world, pilots are not often jailed for negligence after a crash. While these charges are unrelated and are mostly a destruction of evidence issue, it’s important to preserve what protections from prosecution we have.

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