Ex KYW-TV anchor Mort Crim flies back into our lives

Mort Crim's film of his trip airs Saturday.
Mort Crim's film of his trip airs Saturday.
Posted: July 20, 2012

THOSE OF US who remember Mort Crim might find it difficult to think of the sobersided former KYW-TV, Channel 3 news anchor as having a "bucket list." But Crim does indeed have a number of things he'd like to do and achieve before his Final Sign-Off. And one of them is the focus of his return to local screens Saturday afternoon.

"Flight Level 74 and Still Climbing," which airs on his alma mater at 3 p.m., chronicles Crim's 7,800-mile round-trip, solo cross-country journey three years ago. "The trip itself was something I had on my ‘bucket list,' he said during a recent phone call from his Jacksonville, Fla., home. “There were several things I really wanted to do while I have the energy and wits about me. Flying solo across the country was one of my top items."

Inspired by the 2007 Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman flick "The Bucket List," Crim — who turns 77 July 31 — set out to fly 7,400 miles to mark his 74th birthday (he's been flying since he was 16). But he ultimately overshot his mark by 400 miles. His itinerary took him to 32 cities and towns in 31 days including Oshkosh, Wis., site of the country's largest annual gathering of civilian pilots, and Eugene, Ore., where he visited his son.

One of his favorite stops was suburban Las Vegas, where he reunited with the legendary Vince Leonard, his old anchor-desk partner. Their meeting included an impromptu "newscast" from Leonard's living room.

But when pressed, Crim, who worked at KYW from 1972-'77 (he also manned the anchor desk with Jessica Savitch on what was considered Channel 3's news "Dream Team"), cited his visit to New Orleans as the real high point. "I'm a big Dixieland jazz aficionado," he admitted. "I got my fix there."

Crim not only produced Saturday's one-hour documentary, but he also directed and shot it on a small, handheld Sony high-def camera. Generally, the trip was drama-free, although there "were some weather challenges. I had to go around some storms." He was totally self-contained, bringing with him a tent, folding bicycle and camping gear.

According to Crim, his aerial sojourn was more than a lark. As a survivor of both colon and prostate cancer, he saw the trip as a statement from which others could take inspiration.

"The thing I set out to prove," he said, "was that you don't let these bumps in the road — like health issues — keep you from pursuing your dreams. We need to really evaluate what our dreams are and figure out if we can do it. And then do it."

He also hopes the program will remind people that despite these polarized times, whatever it is that separates us pales by comparison to those things that unite us.

"There are all these lines — Republican-Democrat, Muslim-Christian that really are not real," he insisted. "I've seen a beautiful America as I lived out my personal dream, but I return with a bigger dream — a dream of Americans erasing the lines that divide us."

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