YouTuber sentenced to 6 months in prison for crashing plane to get a sponsorship deal

A YouTuber who intentionally downed his aircraft to boost video views as part of a sponsorship deal was sentenced to six months in federal prison for “deliberately destroying” the wreckage, federal prosecutors said in a news release Monday. 

Trevor Jacob, 30, of Lompoc, California, pleaded guilty this year to one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation.

Prosecutors said that in the aftermath of the crash, which occurred in November 2021, Jacob lied to investigators and a Federal Aviation Administration safety inspector.

U.S. snowboarder Trevor Jacob at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.
U.S. snowboarder Trevor Jacob at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.Andy Wong / AP file

Jacob, who has 143,000 subscribers on YouTube, had posted a 13-minute video titled “I Crashed My Airplane” in December 2021, which amassed 2.9 million views before it was made private. The video — which Jacob shot using several video cameras mounted on different parts of the airplane, as well as a video camera and a selfie stick — shows him taking off from Lompoc City Airport before ejecting from his Taylorcraft BL-65 about 35 minutes after departure. 

He had initially agreed to provide the location and videos of the crash to National Transportation Safety Board investigators, according to the news release, but later lied about not knowing the downed plane’s location. It was then discovered that he moved the wreckage via helicopter before he cut it up and trashed the remains.

The aircraft accident incident report Jacob submitted also falsely indicated that he ejected because his plane lost power, and he had falsely told an FAA aviation safety inspector that he ditched the plane because its engine had quit and he could find no safe place to land. 

“It appears that [Jacob] exercised exceptionally poor judgment in committing this offense,” prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum cited by the Justice Department. 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.”

According to the plea agreement, Jacob had intended to use the video for a sponsorship deal with an unnamed company that made wallets. The U.S. attorney’s office for Central California said Monday that “Jacob intended to make money through the video.”

In a news release earlier this year, the U.S. attorney’s office said the FAA revoked Jacob’s pilot license in April 2022. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dominique Caamano, who prosecuted the case, said a stunt like Jacob’s risked causing much more damage.

“This is a unique circumstance in that someone crashed an airplane for views, but the idea of doing stunts for views or for branded content is certainly not unique,” Caamano told NBC News. “And so the message here is: If you’re going to do something against the law, there’s going to be a consequence.”

In a statement provided by his attorney, Jacob said that “this experience has been so humbling.” He thanked U.S. District Judge John F. Walter, his attorney and his “support system.” 

“I’ve learned more about myself than in my entire prior life combined,” he said. “I have learned from my mistakes, and look forward to being a contributing member of society, and a mentor for youth. … I am excited to continue my positive growth as a person through my six month term in prison.”