Is this a new fad?
Yeah, that’s horseshit.
The protocol for an engine-out in a light aircraft is to trade whatever spare speed you have for additional altitude, look for a place to land, try to work out the problem with the engine and call in a Mayday in approximately that order.
We didn’t see any of that. What we did see is the propeller of the pilotless aircraft windmilling away, happily turning over the motor which presumably had both its ignition systems turned off (or may have been legit out of fuel). We also see that the aircraft crashes near a dirt road that was clearly within range.
The guy had loads of altitude to work the problem, and still bail out later but instead immediately chose to leave the aircraft with some difficulty.
Generally, only Warbird pilots wear parachutes.
So yeah, that all looks like a setup.
Utterly reckless, and a waste of a good plane and a waste of NTSB time.
Reading the article from the Santa Barbara Independent, this sticks out:
Employees informed Jacob that the incident would need to be reported to the FAA, but soon after, Jacob and a friend allegedly chartered a helicopter to remove the wreckage from the forest and transport it to an unknown location.
I’m sure the NTSB will love that. Investigation # WPR22LA049
They call it “Harrison Fording.”