Remember when the FTC published new disclosure guidelines for influencers that the agency said "leaves no room for misunderstanding?" It looks like the Federal Aviation Administration might have to do the same thing: YouTuber Trevor Jacob recently pleaded guilty to obstructing a federal investigation by hiding evidence that he intentionally crashed his plane in a video made as part of a sponsorship deal to promote a wallet.
The whole sordid, stupid story began in November 2021, when Jacob took his single-engine private plane out, purportedly so he could spread the ashes of his best friend over the Sierra Nevada mountains. Midway through the flight, however, his engine suddenly went dead!
Cursing his misfortune, he bailed out of his stricken craft, leaving it to crash into the Los Padres National Forest in Southern California, while he was forced to trek long miles through the rugged, mountainous landscape after touching down, before being rescued by a passerby.
Shortly thereafter, Jacob posted a video of his narrow escape to YouTube, and that's where his troubles really began. Questions about the crash emerged almost immediately: There was no indication in the video that Jacob had tried to do anything to restart the engine, call for help, or look for a safe landing spot before bailing out of the plane, and while he appeared to be in a state of near-panic after the engine quit, he also had the presence of mind to have his selfie stick in hand when he jumped out. Oddly enough, he was also wearing a parachute when he went up, and had mounted multiple cameras in strategic locations on the plane.
"Honestly, so many red flags here. Nothing makes sense in the context of a genuine engine failure," redditor Torque_Tonight wrote on the Flying subreddit. "Totally unbelievable reaction, bad acting, no attempt to resolve the failure despite a suspiciously high cruise altitude. Just straight to jumping out into prolonged freefall with a skydiving rig and selfie stick. Also seems to have trimmed nose down to guarantee a high speed crash not too far away."
"Just imagine if the craft had hit some unsuspecting camper/hiker or motorist," Woozuki replied. "I hope the aviation community lights this guy up and makes it, at the very least, very difficult for him to fly again."
That wish was granted in short order. On April 2022, the FAA revoked Jacob's pilot license, saying he had acted in a "careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another," and that it believed he had staged the whole thing.
"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 FAA said (via the New York Times). "Your egregious and intentional actions on these dates indicate that you presently lack the degree of care, judgment and responsibility required of a certificate holder."
That might have been the end of it, except for the fact that Jacob tried to cover the whole thing up. Instead of immediately seeking help after reaching the ground, according to a new Guardian report, he hiked to the crash site and took the video from the cameras he'd installed on the plane. He reported the crash to the National Transportation Safety Board two days after it happened, but claimed he didn't know where the wreckage was; shortly after that, he and a friend recovered the plane, towed it to a hangar, and over the course of several days destroyed sections of the plane and stuffed the parts in trash cans in and around the airport, like some kind of serial killer leaving body parts in dumpsters.
But it turns out that lying to investigators and destroying evidence in a federal investigation is actually a pretty big deal. Following an investigation by the Department of Transport, with "substantial assistance" from the NTSB and FAA—who apparently didn't buy his story for a hot second—Jacob copped to everything in a plea deal with the US Department of Justice, and now he's facing up to 20 years in prison on one count of destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation.
And why did Jacob engage in this colossal act of stupidity, you wonder? According to the DOJ, he had a sponsorship deal with an unnamed company, and the video was made to promote a wallet. Perhaps he should have watched this:
Addendum to the above: Don't crash your goddamn plane on purpose and then lie to the government about it.
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Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.