A YouTuber pilot who bailed out midair and deliberately sent his plane crashing into the ground to bolster viewing numbers on his channel could be jailed for up to 20 years.

In a video seen by nearly three million people and titled “I crashed my airplane,” Trevor Jacob appears to experience engine trouble while flying over southern California in November 2021.

The dramatic footage shows Jacob, 29, ejecting from the single-engine plane – selfie stick in hand – and parachuting into the dense vegetation of the Los Padres National Forest.

Cameras placed all over the aircraft show its out-of-control descent into the forest, and its eventual crash.

Jacob films himself hiking to the wreckage where he appears dismayed to discover the water he packed has disappeared.

Viewers see him bushwhacking through poison oak and over hills as he seemingly struggles to find civilisation, giving regular updates about how thirsty he is, and how lost he feels.

Finally, he stops to scoop water from a stream, and moments later comes across a vehicle and apparent salvation as night falls.

In the weeks after the incident, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) launched a probe into the crash, and Jacob was ordered to preserve the wreckage.

The YouTuber told officials he did not know where the plane had gone down but, according to a plea deal lodged in Los Angeles, two weeks after the drama he and a friend winched the wreckage out of the forest with a helicopter, having earlier recovered data from the on-board cameras.

Over the next few days, he cut up the plane into small pieces and dumped the parts in rubbish bins in and around Lompoc City Airport.

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