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YouTuber who jumped from plane caused it to crash in order to record video of it, FAA says

The FAA said it was revoking Trevor Jacob’s private pilot certificate and that he chose to jump out of the plane “solely so you could record the footage of the crash.”

A YouTuber who parachuted from a small airplane over California mountains last year after claiming engine trouble purposely caused the aircraft to crash so he could record it, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a recent letter.

The April 11 letter to Trevor Jacob says Jacob’s private pilot certificate, or license, has been revoked.

“On November 24, 2021, 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's emergency order of revocation letter says.

The Taylorcraft BL-65 single-engine plane left Lompoc in Santa Barbara County that day and crashed in Los Padres National Forest.

The New York Times reported the FAA letter Wednesday.

The video, titled “I Crashed My Plane,” was posted Dec. 23 on Jacob’s YouTube channel. Questions about whether the crash was intentional were raised and cited in media reports and aviation websites.

In it, Jacob, the pilot and sole occupant, is flying the single-engine plane when the video appears to show the propeller stop spinning. Jacob makes comments, several of which are bleeped, including one about an engine’s being out.

He then opens the door and jumps from the plane, recording himself falling and using a parachute. Cameras attached to the now-empty aircraft show it crashing into the mountains.

Jacob did not immediately respond to messages sent to an email address attached to the YouTube page late Wednesday or to messages sent to what appears to be his Instagram account and to a website that appears to be related to him.

An attorney listed in the FAA letter as apparently representing Jacob said he could not comment on Jacob’s affairs.

Jacob said in a statement in January that "I’ll happily say I did not purposely crash my plane for views on YouTube," The New York Times reported at the time.

Jacob has advertised himself on his YouTube channel as an adventurer and an Olympic athlete and the founder of an adventure-themed website.

He competed for Team USA in snowboarding at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and came in ninth place in men’s snowboardcross.

The “I Crashed My Plane,” video had more than 1.8 million views as of Thursday evening.

The FAA letter says that “during this flight you opened the left side pilot door before you claimed the engine had failed.”

The letter says Jacob made no attempt to contact air traffic control on an emergency frequency, to restart the engine by increasing airflow over the propeller or to look for areas to safely land “even though there were multiple areas within gliding range in which you could have made a safe landing.”

He also put on a sport parachute backpack before the flight, attached multiple cameras to the outside of the plane and used a "selfie-stick" to record after he jumped, the letter says.

Jacob recovered the wreckage of the plane and disposed of it and retrieved the cameras that had been attached to it before the flight, the letter says.

In the video uploaded to YouTube, Jacob says on the ground, “I’m just so happy to be alive,” pans to the wilderness and says there is nowhere to land and “that’s why I always freakin’ fly with a parachute.”

The FAA letter cited what it called Jacob’s “egregious and intentional actions” in saying he lacks the qualifications for airman certification.

The FAA doesn’t have prosecutorial authority and can’t file criminal charges, the agency has said. It can impose civil penalties, such as the fines levied against unruly plane passengers, and it can suspend or revoke pilots' flight certificates.

A pilot certificate is required to fly solo.

The crash happened deep in Los Padres National Forest, and the aircraft was removed before the video was posted to YouTube, said Sean Aidukas, the assistant director of aviation safety for the U.S. Forest Service.

Planes do crash or make emergency landings on Forest Service lands, and sometimes the wreckage is hauled out by other aircraft operated by private companies working with insurance companies, he said. It’s not clear how the plane in the November incident was removed.

A spokesman for Los Padres National Forest called it a dangerous stunt, and he noted that anyone who intentionally causes a wildfire can be held liable for all of the firefighting costs.

“Thankfully this incident did not spark a fire,” spokesman Andrew Madsen said.