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I Crashed My Plane, screenshot
Via YouTube/TrevorJacob

Did this YouTuber stage a whole plane crash for ...content?

Don’t forget to like and nosedive

A mere mention of the word ‘YouTuber’ probably conjures up a pretty distinct image in your mind. Since its inception in 2005, the platform’s creators have gained notoriety for an ever-growing series of controversies and ill-advised stunts, from filming dead bodies, to faking the death of their own partner, to partaking in COVID-themed pranks. In fact, it’s no secret that YouTube’s discovery algorithm has historically rewarded bad behaviour.

If you thought the days of shock-for-views were long gone, though, then you’d be mistaken. That’s why footage of a man bailing from his private plane, leaving it to crash into a Californian hillside, can amass more than two million views in the space of four months.

Appropriately titled “I Crashed My Plane”, the video was posted by YouTuber and former Olympic snowboarder Trevor Jacob late last year (December 24), and shows a crash that occurred on November 24, 2021. “Holy fuck,” Jacob says as he opens the cockpit door while flying high over California’s Los Padres national forest. “I’m over the mountains and I… have an engine out.” He then process to throw himself out of the cockpit, and films himself with a selfie stick as he parachutes into some “gnarly” bushes. Later in the video, he finds the twisted wreckage of the plane, and after several hours of walking he’s rescued by a group of farmers.

This may sound like a terrible accident-turned-miraculous survival story, but after the video blew up, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) raised its own concerns about the incident. Following an official investigation, it has concluded that Jacob actually staged the crash for the video, and demanded that he surrenders his private pilot certificate.

“You demonstrated a lack of care, judgement and responsibility by choosing to jump out of an aircraft solely so you could record the footage of the crash,” the FAA says in a statement reported by the New York Times. “Your egregious and intentional actions on these dates indicate that you presently lack the degree of care, judgement and responsibility required of a certificate holder.”

To justify its decision, the agency pointed out several factors of the crash that suggest Jacob is unfit to fly. Before exiting the plane, it says, he made no attempt to contact air traffic control, restart the engine, or find a safe place to land, “even though there were multiple areas within gliding range”. Wearing a parachute in advance, and equipping the plane with several cameras – which show the crash from many different angles – have also been regarded as suspicious by officials and viewers of the YouTube video.

For those who already knew Jacob, the controversy may not come as a surprise. Among the other greatest hits on his channel are “I Went To Prison For Train Hopping”, “Motocross Jump Near Death”, and “My Best Friend Dies BASE Jumping”. These videos have between 500,000 and three million views each – in stark contrast to the tens of thousands his videos usually receive.

In his most recent video, meanwhile, Jacob films himself flying to the post office (of course) to post his private pilot’s licence back to the authorities. The compilation also includes news footage of the alleged accident, and – you guessed it – a request to buy his plane-crash-themed merch, which will apparently help cover legal fees.