Pilot, skydiver, and former U.S. Olympic snowboarder Trevor Jacob has been sentenced to six months in federal prison for “obstructing a federal investigation by deliberately destroying the wreckage of an airplane that he intentionally crashed.”
Jacob, 30, gained notoriety when, on November 24, 2021, he filmed himself bailing out of his Taylorcraft BL-65 after it suffered an alleged engine failure 35 minutes into a flight from California’s Lompoc City Airport (KLPC) to Mammoth Yosemite Airport (KMMH). At the time, Jacob said his intention was to go snowboarding in Mammoth Lakes. Several cameras were mounted to the aircraft, and Jacob had a video camera on a selfie stick that he carried with him and used to record footage of himself parachuting to safety.
The empty aircraft went down in Los Padres National Forest. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California noted that, after making it to the ground, Jacob hiked to the site of the crash and recovered the video recordings. He informed the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) of the accident two days later.
According to the Attorney’s office, he was then informed that he was responsible for preserving the wreckage and agreed to “determine the crash location and provide both the coordinates of the downed plane and videos of the crash to NTSB investigators.” The NTSB and FAA both launched investigations within days of the report amid widespread speculation that the accident had been staged. Following its investigation, the FAA revoked Jacob’s pilot certificate in April 2021 for violating FAR 91.13 and operating an aircraft in a “careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.”
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“Jacob lied to federal investigators when he submitted an aircraft accident incident report that falsely indicated that the aircraft experienced a full loss of power approximately 35 minutes after takeoff,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a statement. “Jacob also lied to an FAA aviation safety inspector when he said the airplane’s engine had quit and, because he could not identify any safe landing options, he had parachuted out of the plane.”
Jacob told NTSB investigators he did not know where the aircraft had gone down but, according to the attorney’s office, he returned to the site with a friend via helicopter on December 10, secured the wreckage to a helicopter, and flew it to Rancho Sisquoc in Santa Barbara County. He then loaded it into a trailer and drove to a hangar at KLPC, where he proceeded to cut up the remains of the aircraft. The wreckage was then thrown into “trash bins at the airport and elsewhere,” the attorney’s office said.
The attorney’s office further reported that Jacob had secured a sponsorship deal before the incident, agreeing to promote a company’s wallet via his YouTube channel. He then posted a video on December 23, 2021, titled “I Crashed My Airplane,” which included a promotion of the wallet. Jacob pleaded guilty to the charge of “destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation” on June 30, 2023.
“It appears that [Jacob] exercised exceptionally poor judgment in committing this offense,” California prosecutors wrote. “[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.”