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The Australian Transport Safety Bureau did not conduct an on scene investigation of this occurrence. The report presented below was derived from information supplied to the Bureau.

The Piper PA 32R-301 aircraft, registered VH-WMC, was intended to be flown on a return charter flight from Winton to Boulia in Queensland. The flight was to familiarise the pilot in command with the route and the facilities at Boulia Aerodrome. The aircraft load, which comprised 300 litres of fuel and six adults, including the pilot in command and the aircraft owner, placed the aircraft approximately 67 kg above the maximum allowable take-off weight. The weather was bright and clear with a light easterly wind, and an ambient temperature of approximately 15 degrees C.

The pilot in command reported that all pre-flight checks and engine indications were normal, and that the elevator trim was set rearward of the neutral position, in accordance with the Aircraft Operating Manual. One stage of flap was selected and they were using runway 14 at Winton. The initial take-off roll was normal and rotation was initiated at about 80 knots. The pilot reported that the aircraft became airborne and then veered to the left of the runway centreline. The pilot lowered the nose of the aircraft slightly in an attempt to gain airspeed and increase aircraft control, but it veered right and travelled beyond the edge of the runway towards the aerodrome boundary fence. Throughout this period, the aircraft became airborne but did not fly out of ground effect. In a further attempt to increase speed, the pilot retracted the landing gear. However, the aircraft settled onto its lower fuselage and collided with the aerodrome boundary fence.

On the day before the accident, the pilot in command completed three circuits as a refamiliarisation exercise in the aircraft type. The aircraft owner, also a pilot, accompanied the pilot in command and occupied the right cockpit seat. No other persons were on board the aircraft. At the owner's suggestion, the pilot in command set the elevator trim close to the full forward position before takeoff. The owner reported that the pilot in command handled the aircraft satisfactorily.

The Aircraft Operating Manual stated that for a normal takeoff, the elevator trim should be set slightly rearward of neutral, and that the aircraft should be accelerated to 74 to 80 knots, depending on its weight, before backpressure on the control wheel was applied to rotate the aircraft to the climb attitude. From the information provided, it is likely that a combination of the different trim setting, the rear centre of gravity position, and the higher aircraft weight for the accident takeoff, compared with the flight the previous day, resulted in the aircraft assuming a high nose-up attitude after becoming airborne. The resultant drag lead to the control difficulties reported by the pilot and prevented the aircraft accelerating to the normal climb speed.

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