A pilot and professional YouTuber has run into some trouble after he crashed his plane in the California mountains last month, only to be accused of doing the whole thing on purpose to grab some page views. Now he’s being investigated by the feds.
Trevor Jacob, a former Olympic snowboarder turned social media star, recently crashed a Taylorcraft BL64 plane into the foothills of the Los Padres National Forest, filming the entire episode as it occurred, The Drive reports. Jacob, who has been making YouTube videos for awhile, has claimed that he was en route from Lompoc City Airport in Santa Barbara to Mammoth Lakes (a Sierra Nevada snowboarding town) when the plane randomly stalled out, forcing him to abandon it. When he escaped, Jacob notably pitched the plane nose-down, forcing it on a vertical trajectory into the wilderness, before jumping out with a parachute.
A 17-minute video uploaded to Jacob’s YouTube page, titled “I Crashed My Plane,” captures this entire escapade: from a sunny takeoff, to Jacob’s realization that the plane is in trouble, to his dive out of the plane door and the release of his parachute.
With the help of a selfie stick and plane-mounted cameras, we see Jacob plummet through the air, while the doomed aircraft descends lower and lower—finally barreling into the side of a hill. Jacob is then forced to hike through the wilderness until he is picked up by someone in a truck (Jacob claims this man was “a farmer”). The video netted Jacob more than a million page views.
However, it didn’t take long for the internet to become suspicious of Jacob’s narrative, and YouTube has since become populated with videos critiquing the pilot’s story. Aviation professionals have questioned many of Jacob’s decisions during the flight. For instance, the need to jump from the plane seemed suspect to one expert, who offered that the vehicle could have been piloted for another 15 to 20 miles. In the video, Jacob also makes the claim that he “always” flies with a parachute; this claim was subsequently debunked by a number of viewers who noted that, in fact, he isn’t wearing a parachute in most of his videos and that to do so isn’t particularly common for small-plane pilots, as there’s usually not enough room.
To make matters more interesting, the Federal Aviation Administration is now investigating the crash, reports aviation site AVweb. “The FAA is investigating this event,” the agency told the outlet on Monday, while declining to comment further. While there’s not much to go off there, a thorough investigation by federal officials should be able to tell whether a plane malfunctioned or was intentionally sabotaged in some way.
Ultimately, Jacob is either an innocent man who quite amazingly survived an wild plane crash and is now being unfairly pilloried by a paranoid YouTube mob, or he’s a social media influencer doing what influencers do: pull sensationalistic stunts to grab attention and watch the views roll in.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Jacob actually isn’t the first influencer pilot to get accused of faking a plane crash. A couple of years ago, David Lesh, a former pro skier and the owner of a Colorado sportswear company, was piloting a plane near Half Moon Bay in northern California when the engine allegedly stalled, forcing him to conduct an emergency water landing. The fact that the whole thing was filmed and later uploaded to YouTube led many to believe that Lesh had staged the crash to garner attention for his business.