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Central Coast pilot who crashed plane for YouTube clicks is headed to federal prison

The Central Coast YouTuber who pleaded guilty to deliberately crashing a plane in California’s Los Padres National Forest to generate online views in a moneymaking scheme was sentenced to six months in federal prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday in a news release.

Lompoc resident Trevor Daniel Jacob, 30, began his solo flight from the Lompoc City Airport destined for Mammoth Lakes on Nov. 24, 2021.

Only Jacob never planned on arriving in Mammoth, the release said. Rather, he intended to eject from his aircraft during the flight and record himself parachuting to the ground as his airplane descended and crashed.

Jacob pleaded guilty to one felony count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation on June 30.

“It appears that (Jacob) exercised exceptionally poor judgment in committing this offense,” prosecutors said in the release. “(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.”

Jacob is an experienced pilot, skydiver and former Olympic athlete, the release said. According to previous Tribune reporting, Jacob competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics as a snowboarder when he was a Paso Robles resident.

Central Coast man who crashed plane for YouTube video admits to obstructing investigation

How did YouTuber fake and attempt conceal crash?

Jacob received a sponsorship from a company and had agreed to promote the company’s wallet in the YouTube video that he would post.

According to the release, the YouTuber mounted several video cameras on different parts of the plane and equipped himself with a parachute, video camera and selfie stick prior to taking off on Nov. 24, 2021.

After flying for approximately 35 minutes, he ejected above Los Padres National Forest near Santa Maria, the release said. Video later showed him claiming the plane’s engine had cut out. He then videoed himself parachuting to the ground.

The airplane crash was recorded with the various cameras, the release said. Once he had parachuted safely to the ground, he then hiked to the location of the wreck and recovered the video recording of his flight and crash.

Two days later on Nov. 26, 2021, Jacob notified the National Transportation Safety Board about the crash. The agency then launched an investigation and told Jacob he was responsible for preserving the wreckage so the agency could examine it.

He agreed to determine the crash location and provide the coordinates and video of the crash to agency investigators.

The Federal Aviation Administration launched its own investigation three days later.

The release said Jacob lied to investigators that he did not know the location of the wreckage. But on Dec. 10, 2021, Jacob and a friend flew to the wreckage by helicopter to retrieve it and transported it to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County, where he loaded it into his pickup truck.

He then drove the wreckage to an airplane hangar at Lompoc City Airport, the release said, where he cut up and destroyed the aircraft. He unloaded the detached parts of the plane into trash bins at the airport and elsewhere “which was done with the intent to obstruct federal authorities from investigating the November 24 plane crash,” the release said.

On Dec. 23, 2021, Jacob uploaded a YouTube video titled “I Crashed My Airplane” that showed him parachuting out of his plane and the aircraft’s crash, while including the sponsored wallet promotion.

“Jacob intended to make money through the video,” the release said.

The release said Jacob lied to federal investigators when he filed a report that falsely indicated his plane lost full power approximately 35 minutes into the flight.

He also lied to a Federal Aviation Administration aviation safety inspector when he said he had parachuted out of the plane when the airplane’s engine had quit because he could not identify any safe landing options.