On November 17, 2000, at 0958 Eastern Standard Time, a Cessna 172K, N79054, was substantially damaged during takeoff at the Hagerstown Airport (HGR), Hagerstown, Maryland. The certificated private pilot and three passengers were not injured. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the personal local flight conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.

According to the pilot, the purpose of the flight was to introduce several passengers to the Young Eagles Program. He performed a pre-flight inspection, and explained to the passengers the function of each component as he checked it. He then taxied the airplane to Runway 27 and applied full power for takeoff. The trim tab was set in the "up" position, and the airplane rotated on its own at the end of the takeoff roll. The pilot received "no elevator response" from the airplane during the climb, and then noticed the control wheel lock was still connected to the control yoke. The airplane then "crashed back down on the runway," the nose landing gear tire "blew," the nose gear collapsed, and the airplane slid to a stop on its nose.

The pilot stated that he did not perform a run-up inspection because he had just flown in from another airport, and intended to immediately depart again.

According to the passenger seated in the right front seat, the pilot taxied to the runway and applied full throttle for takeoff. During the takeoff roll, the pilot attempted to remove a pin from the control wheel with one hand. About halfway down the length of the runway, the pilot used both hands to attempt to remove the pin, as the airplane lifted off the ground. The airplane climbed to about 20 feet and "crashed straight down" onto the runway.

Examination of the airplane by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector revealed the burst nose landing gear tire, and damage to the airplane's propeller, firewall, and belly.

According to the Cessna 152 Pilot's Operating Handbook, the second item on the PREFLIGHT INSPECTION checklist is to remove the control wheel lock. Additionally, the second item on the BEFORE TAKEOFF checklist is to "check for free and correct movement" of the flight controls.

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