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Tue, Dec 28, 2021

Viral Wannabe Accused of Crashing Plane for Views

Youtuber Shenanigans May Have, Once Again, Embarrassed General Aviation

One creator has made some waves with his latest video, a quickly edited affair packed with jump cuts that he says shows his recent cross country flight ending in an ‘unavoidable’ plane crash. In an internet ecosystem packed with fakes and imposters, it didn't take long for incongruities in the video to catch the eyes of knowledgeable viewers.

The 16-minute video is, to the critical eye, packed with oddities from the start. It features Jacob flying a 1940 Taylorcraft to spread the ashes of his friend, Johnny Strange, who died in a 2015 wingsuit crash in Switzerland. With his aircraft sporting cameras affixed to the tail, the port wing, and the cabin, Jacob had been filming a supposed cross country journey to make a video later. While seated, he tells viewers that he always flies with a parachute, sporting a large, fully-equipped skydiving pack tightly affixed to himself, before his engine cuts out. He reacts with some profanity and pulls back on the yoke, saying the area is surrounded by mountains as he slows the aircraft as much as possible. He seems set on jumping from the outset, showing no visible intent to restart the engine, or land the aircraft safely (though some landing zones appear to have potential), even opening the door only seconds after recognizing the problem. Leaving his headset dangling in the draft, he slips out of the plane headfirst with only his (supremely important) selfie stick recording all the way down. The now-unmanned aircraft, with its cameras still recording, slowly noses into a spiral before impacting on the embankment of a nearby mountain.  Jacob waits some time before pulling his chute, landing in the thick brush and poison oak. 

What follows is what could kindly be said to be a "hokey" and poorly acted survival documentary where Jacob shows off his scrapes and scratches to the camera. Oddly, he begins a hike back to the crash site, growling and bushwhacking his way through the scrub. Finding himself without cellular service, he advises viewers "that myth that 911 works without phone service is totally false." Once at the crash site, he bemoans a  water jug missing from the wreckage and starts walking back to parts unknown while carrying his recovered equipment.  As night falls, he wanders through the wilderness (apparently aimlessly) before drinking from a stream he encounters after dark. Eventually, Jacob finds a road and a ride out. The rest of the video features the placement of his friend's ashes (in a ziploc sandwich bag, the patrician's funerary choice) while he hikes up onto a peak with his paragliding kit to jump his way to a scenic flight. 

With a critical eye, a number of things jump out: Why would he be wearing a bulky, uncomfortable skydiving rig for a run of the mill flight? Why would his short-lived cameras affixed to the aircraft be running at the time? Why, most of all, does he seem dead-set on jumping the second the engine sputters to a stop? Almost as soon as the propeller slows, it seems to show that he’s opening the door to bail while slowing the plane as much as he can. There’s little or no displayed intent to fly the aircraft down. Before jumping, why does he not grab  anything from the plane? Why does he have his camera hooked up to a selfie stick if he was recording a boring XC flight? Why does he open his chute so late? Why does he not use his phone or tablet to open up a map and look for the nearest road to hike out? Why does he waste valuable time and daylight to hike to the crash site, if not to recover the cameras attached to the plane? How does he still have a sandwich baggie with a palmful of his friend’s ashes, when he passed away nearly 7 years ago? And... Why did he pass up what appeared to be several visible landing alternatives that could have resulted in a reasonable safe deadstick landing? 

Trevor Jacob's small Youtube channel, floating around 126,000 subscribers, hosts what appears to be run-of-the-mill, adrenaline junkie content. Most videos see around 10,000 views at best, with random outliers for particularly effective titles reaching into the millions. The focus of Johnny Strange’s ashes is somewhat notable in light of his 2nd most successful video being a retelling of the fatal accident. If taken at face value, Jacob would seem to have lived the most interesting, eventful life possible for a young bachelor: he jumped a freight train snowboarding, he was arrested for skydiving, trainhopping landed him in prison, he even stopped a house fire with a garden hose. (Exaggeration, it should be noted, often gets views.) Throughout his video, his website is featured on his clothing, an adventure site that offers paid experiences like shooting with a navy SEAL or skydiving with former Nitro Circus members. Once an olympic snowboard competitor, he hails from the ritzy California suburbs of Malibu and Mammoth Lakes. By age 17, he had climbed the 7 summits, which, critics note, is an accomplishment far outside the realm of affordability to the average minor. He holds a Private pilot’s license issued in 2020, with his first class medical completed in November of 2018. It will be interesting to see how this video plays out, as rumors state the FAA and the NTSB have found his performance distressing, to say the least. A trend of artificially induced plane crashes, some kid, would not be a favorable or unexpected development.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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