On 6 December 2011, a Rockwell International 114 (Commander), registered VH-SJF (SJF), made a planned refuelling stop at Meekatharra Aerodrome in Western Australia on a flight from Karratha to Perth. Immediately following the refuel, the pilot taxied for departure before an approaching storm cell arrived in the area.
Shortly after rotation at 0925 WST, the wind speed and direction changed suddenly, causing the aircraft to sink and drift off the runway. The pilot initially lowered the nose, but then raised the nose and applied power to clear a ditch and mound running parallel to the runway.
The pilot again lowered the nose, but as the aircraft was not developing sufficient lift to clear trees ahead, he cut the power and aimed for a gap in the trees. The left wing contacted a tree and spun the aircraft, causing serious damage. The pilot, who was the sole occupant, was uninjured.
Weather related issues accounted for 25% of local condition related safety factors identified in aviation investigations completed by the ATSB over the 2010-11 period.
An ATSB aviation research and analysis reportpublished in 2010 found that private operations accounted for 44% of accidents in proportion to hours flown. Problems with a pilot's assessment and planning were evident in all of these accidents. The report recommended that private pilots make decisions pre-flight and that they set and stick to personnel minimums.
Wind direction and strength can change ahead of a storm cell. The Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, published in 2008 by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA), described the impact of windshear, specifically a microburst, on an aircraft taking off. The description in the Handbook matches the sudden change in wind and aircraft performance characteristics reported by the pilot.