On 30 January 2013, a Fairchild SA 227AC, registered VH-UUO (UUO), departed Melbourne Airport, Victoria for Launceston Airport, Tasmania on a scheduled freight flight. The pilot was the only person on-board.
The pilot prepared a trim sheet to confirm the weight and balance information for the aircraft, then provided an uplift figure to the freight organisation that prepared a loading plan that they used to load the aircraft.
When the pilot approached the aircraft, the freight had been loaded with all cargo access doors closed and the cargo support strut (tail stand) removed. The pilot completed the pre-flight checks in the cockpit then, removed the wheel chocks and wing tip safety markers and placed them in the main cabin area.
During the take-off, the pilot reported that he needed more forward elevator trim than usual to climb out at a 10 degrees nose-up attitude. The pilot noticed that in straight and level flight, the aircraft had full nose-down trim and the aircraft was flying at a 50 nose-up attitude. When the autopilot was engaged, the pilot reported that the autopilot struggled to maintain straight and level flight and the aircraft ‘porpoised’.
The pilot conducted a normal landing at Launceston and checked the freight located in the nose locker. The pilot estimated that the nose locker contained 35 kg of freight when it should have contained about 100 kg. After off-loading the freight at Launceston, the aircraft was re-loaded for the next flight, to ensure that the aircraft was within the centre of gravity limits.
As a result of this occurrence, the operator has advised the ATSB that they are taking safety action including: develop a plan to provide training for all employees, establish an audit oversight program, establish standard operating procedures for all facets of operation and identify all managers and supervisors that require training or retraining including agents.