Clifford Graham, Director of Operations & Maintenance, Orlando Melbourne International Airport
Since the dawn of the space program, Brevard County has drawn people from around the world, making this area a unique and diverse melting pot. Though that magnet of innovation and opportunity continues to attract the best and brightest, a new generation of individuals, who actually grew up on the Space Coast, are helping shape its future. One of these people is the director of Operations and Maintenance at Orlando Melbourne International Airport, Cliff Graham.
Recently recognized as Florida’s Aviation Professional of the Year, Graham has, for more than 24 years, been a part of developing the airport into one of the leading aerospace and aviation hubs in the world. More recently, he supervised operations during one of the most extensive periods of renovations and improvements in the airport’s history.
Projects include: completely rebuilding all three runways, construction of a new air traffic control tower, an upgraded U.S. Customs facility, improvements on the on-site fuel farm and beginning the initial phases of the airport’s terminal transformation project. These projects total more than
$100 million in capital improvements in just the past two years, and all without any major disruptions to passenger and commercial service.
“Within the last five years, the intensity of the projects we’ve been involved in, along with the growth of the tenants who call the airport home, has been remarkable,” Graham observed. “There have been incredible changes, and there’s more to come.”
One major project the airport, tenants and most residents have long anticipated is the direct connection from the airport property to I-95, which is now underway. “This has been discussed for 20 years,” said Graham. “Today, the travel time from our parking lot to I-95 is about 20 minutes during commute hours, and this project should cut that time in half. That’s significant.”
Graham exudes enthusiasm and obvious pride in the airport, where he began working in the maintenance department while going to college. “I grew up here and went to Eau Gallie High,” he said. “I’m a hometown guy who had the opportunity to work my way up in this organization. The airport has treated me well, and I always try to treat the airport well in return.”
He added: “My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic, that hard work and letting your work speak for itself brings results.”
A Team Approach
Graham was especially appreciative of the opportunity to work with two individuals he considers remarkable airport executive directors — Greg Donovan and his predecessor, Richard Ennis. Plus, he is much more comfortable talking about others than he is himself.
“Richard was brilliant on the financial side, but he was also so good with people; he treated everyone fairly,” Graham said. “If he said he would do something, it got done. Greg is also such an amazing visionary leader and a real aviation guy. The experience and background he brings to our airport is great, but you add his passion and you see the results in what’s happened in the last five years.”
Graham believes the size of the airport gives everyone the ability to work as a team and contribute on these projects.
“Our airport has a great safety record, but that’s because it’s something we work on every single day, not just when there’s an inspection approaching,” he asserted. “That’s how you stay at your best and ensure a safe and positive experience for everyone.”