- Trevor Jacob, 28, crashed his civilian aircraft in November and posted the footage on YouTube.
- Aviation YouTubers analysing his video expressed doubt that the crash was really an accident.
- Jacob has been accused online of faking the crash to get views, and is being investigated by the FAA.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
A YouTuber and former Olympic snowboarder who crashed a civilian plane last November is currently under investigation on the suspicion that he orchestrated the incident so he could make a YouTube video out of it.
Trevor Jacob, 28, runs a YouTube channel documenting his stunts and adventures and has around 130,000 subscribers. He posted a video in December of him abandoning a small Taylorcraft BL64 aircraft, which he said experienced engine failure, as he flew over the Los Padres National Forest in California.
The video has been met with scepticism from aviation YouTubers, who identified several oddities regarding his flight and questioned if the crash was a legitimate accident.
In December, the US Federal Aviation Agency confirmed it would be investigating the crash, according to aviation news site AVWeb. The agency told the outlet that it wouldn't discuss the case as it was still ongoing.
At the beginning of the video, Jacob cheerfully comments on the weather and his surroundings. He tells the camera he brought along the ashes of his friend, Johnny Strange, a BASE jumper who died in a wingsuit accident in 2015. Jacob intended to spread Strange's ashes during the flight, The Drive reported.
The video then cuts to a sequence where Jacob bails from the plane with a parachute and lands in the forest hills. The YouTuber spends what he said were several hours hiking through brush and scrub in search of help.
He filmed himself coming across the wreckage of his plane and said he had no phone service or water.
"I am exhausted. I'm so thirsty. I'm scared, I'm in trouble, I'm cut all over the place," said Jacob halfway through his trek. "The only option I have is crawling through these bushes like I have been for the last five hours. And, uh, I'm in pain, man. I'm hurting. Whatever I'm going through, I wish upon nobody."
Jacob eventually found a stream to drink from in the evening and encountered a stranger (whom he identified as a farmer) driving in a road vehicle after dark.
In the video, Jacob isn't seen trying to radio for help or revive his plane, a single-engine aircraft as per flight registry records.
One YouTuber, Trent Palmer, noted that Jacob appeared to have already unlatched his door before the engine was shown to have failed, and that the former Olympian didn't seem to look for a place to land. Reviewing aerial footage of the area, Palmer, who is a professional drone pilot, identified a nearby area where he said Jacob could have attempted an emergency landing with a high probability of success.
Palmer and another YouTuber, Dan Millican from the channel Taking Off, said general aviation pilots don't usually fly wearing parachutes.
Millican noted that Jacob was wearing a skydiving parachute, which small aircraft pilots don't usually wear because they can be too heavy and become "problematic," he said. He also concurred with Palmer that it was safer for Jacob to try to land his plane than to parachute out, as the aircraft would have continued to glide in the air for some time.
As of Thursday, Jacob's video had accumulated 1.1 million views, but comments on the video have been disabled.
Jacob isn't the first pilot on YouTube accused of staging a plane crash for clout. David Lesh, a former pro skier, drew widespread scepticism when he made an emergency water landing near Half Moon Bay in San Francisco in 2019. Lesh said his plane's engine had stalled, and filmed himself calmly wading in the Pacific Ocean and speaking to the camera after ditching his aircraft.
Critics said Lesh's crash was a dangerous stunt, which he denied in an interview with Inside Edition.
Jacob and the FAA did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.