The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A YouTuber crashed his plane. The FAA says it was all for show.

Lake Piru in Los Padres National Forest, northwest of Los Angeles. (Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP)
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Trevor Jacob’s small airplane soared over California’s Los Padres National Forest in November when, all of a sudden, the propeller stopped spinning.

Jacob, who was filming himself in the cockpit, cursed repeatedly. “I’m over the mountains and I … have an engine out,” he said.

Seconds later, he jumped out of the plane, using a selfie stick to film his descent before deploying a parachute and landing in the wilderness. The episode was captured in a video Jacob later posted to YouTube titled “I Crashed My Plane,” which also shows the aircraft barreling into the mountainous landscape via cameras affixed to its body. The rest of the video, which has received more than 2.2 million views since being posted in December, features Jacob narrating his trek out of the forest and his eventual rescue.

“I’m just so happy to be alive,” Jacob said at one point in the video.

Now, following a Federal Aviation Administration probe, the agency has revoked his pilot’s license, concluding that Jacob crashed the plane as a stunt.

“On November 24, 2021, you demonstrated a lack of care, judgment, and responsibility by choosing to jump out of an aircraft solely so you could record the footage of the crash,” the agency said in an April 11 letter to Jacob.

In a YouTube video posted Saturday, Jacob stood by his December plane crash video. “I didn’t think that just posting a video of an adventure gone south would ruffle so many feathers,” he said.

Jacob also filmed himself mailing in his pilot’s license, wearing a shirt that stated in bold black letters: “ALWAYS WEAR YOUR PARACHUTE.” As Jacob traveled to the post office, he said: “The aviation community has been pretty tough on me, so I’m thinking about quitting altogether and giving up, just because I’m hated.”

Neither Jacob nor his lawyer responded to a request for comment from The Washington Post late Sunday.

Jacob is a former Olympic snowboarder who placed ninth in the men’s snowboard cross competition at the 2014 Winter Games. Since then, Jacob has posted videos to his YouTube channel of himself skydiving, performing snowboard stunts and flying propeller planes.

The FAA cited several pieces of evidence that Jacob intentionally crashed his plane in November, saying he did not call air traffic control, try to restart the engine or attempt to land the plane “even though there were multiple areas within gliding range in which you could have made a safe landing.”

Jacob also attached multiple cameras to the exterior of the plane, the FAA noted, and continued to record the plane’s descent into the mountains with his selfie stick as he fell from the sky. Moreover, the FAA said, Jacob disposed of the plane wreckage and recovered the cameras he had attached to it.

The agency called the crash “careless and reckless,” noting that Jacob could have hurt someone or damaged property. Los Padres National Forest stretches 220 miles and attracts visitors for hiking and camping.

Jacob may not reapply for his license for a year, according to the FAA’s letter.

John Nance, an aviation expert, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the FAA did the “right thing” but should have done it sooner. “This person does not ever belong in the skies,” he said, adding that Jacob’s actions were “brazen.”

Before the FAA made its determination, members of the aviation community were doubtful Jacob’s video was genuine, saying it was unusual that Jacob brought a parachute with him on a routine flight and that he didn’t try to land the plane. Parachutes are typically only used by aerobatic pilots or those who do flight tests, said Trent Palmer, a pilot with his own YouTube channel who criticized Jacob following the crash.

“It blows my mind that he would go out of his way to wreck an airplane like that for something as stupid as, like, YouTube views,” Palmer said.