The FAA took away his license after his stunt, but now Trevor Jacob is in trouble for destroying evidence and misleading investigators.
A number of YouTubers have set about to perform stunts for views – with or without aircraft. But as a general rule, they tend to do so legally. This definitely didn’t seem to be the case when the world saw Trevor Jacob’s “I Crashed My Airplane” video, in December of 2021.
Trevor Jacob took off from Lompoc City Airport (KLPC) in California, on the 24th of November 2021. He was flying a Taylorcraft BL-65 with tail number N29508 – which he had not featured in any of his previous videos. It later transpired that he had bought this aircraft just days earlier. Whether or not the aircraft was in a legally airworthy status when he flew it, is uncertain.
In the video he later uploaded, Trevor Jacob claimed that he was flying to Mammoth Lakes Airport (KMMH). But according to statements he has now made to investigators, this was NOT true. Jacob never intended to reach Mammoth Lakes. He had rigged his aircraft and himself with several cameras, to capture his stunt for a video. Jacob had even secured a sponsor for the event.
So as everyone at the time guessed and Trevor Jacob has now confessed to, the crash was deliberate. He flew over the Los Padres National Forest, a nature preserve near Santa Maria, CA. One of his cameras was pointing ahead and should have captured his instrument panel. But (conveniently), he never showed footage from this camera, during his “accident”.
Trevor Jacob was wearing a full parachuting rig during this flight. There are simpler, thinner, and lighter chutes for pilots who fly aerobatic aircraft or gliders, or for test pilots who put new aircraft designs through their paces. In the video he released, Jacob claimed that he always flies with a parachute. Observers point out that this is not only demonstrably untrue (he NEVER wore a chute in previous videos) but that wearing such a rig in the tiny cabin of a Taylorcraft would be uncomfortable and require some significant adjustments.
Armed with a camera on a selfie stick, Trevor Jacob jumped off the aircraft and recorded himself and the doomed plane. He had opened his door before his engine “failed”, one of the many details people immediately picked up on, in his video. The aircraft circled as it lost altitude, before burying itself into the side of a cliff.
In April last year, the FAA took away Trevor Jacob’s pilot license, because of this crash. However, this was all the FAA could do; the agency doesn’t have a law enforcement role. But many pointed out at the time that other Federal agencies or entities could still pursue their own cases against Jacob. More on this later.
Trevor Jacob Claimed Not To Know Where He Crashed
We now know that Trevor Jacob notified the NTSB about his crash two days after it happened. The agency launched an investigation, and notified Jacob that he was responsible for preserving the scene of the “accident”. Initially, Jacob agreed to lead the investigators to the crash site. The FAA launched its own investigation three days after the NTSB.
But around two weeks after notifying the NTSB, Trevor Jacob has now admitted to flying to the crash site in a friend’s helicopter. It is not clear if Jacob formally hired his friend for what happened next. The two of them slung the wreckage under the helicopter, carrying it away from the crash site. They took it to a road-accessible location in Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County, where Jacob had parked a truck with a trailer.
Trevor Jacob then drove the wrecked Taylorcraft back to Lompoc Airport, where he cut it up into small pieces and disposed of it. During this time, Jacob had been telling the NTSB and the FAA that he had not been able to find the coordinates of the crash site.
It is this action and the related lies that Jacob has now pleaded guilty to “one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation“. This crime carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. However, the fact that Trevor Jacob confessed, suggests that he will very likely receive a lower sentence.
What’s Next For Trevor Jacob?
Obviously, Jacob also submitted a false accident report. It is not clear how he believed that he could get away with his deception. He released his video on the 23rd of December 2021, nearly two weeks after lifting the wreckage from the site.
But it didn’t take long for people watching the video to pinpoint the exact location of the crash site – along with dozens of other inconsistencies in Jacob’s video. Jacob seemed to have strapped a couple of fire extinguishers behind his legs, he seemed to have fitted a different engine and prop to the aircraft than what it had been certified with, among other details.
We will now have to wait for the sentencing of Trevor Jacob. And even after this, the United States Forest Service might well have something to say, about someone who has confessed to deliberately crashing a piston-engined aircraft in a national forest.
The U.S. Forest Service has taken several actions to prevent fires in the area, including the clearance of brush and limiting public access during the fire season. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), these seasonal access restrictions end in mid-November, just before Jacob’s stunt.