Vertical Helicasts is proud to feature some of the best personalities in the industry. Learn more about each of our hosts below.
Host of The Hangar Z Podcast
The Hangar Z podcast founder and host Jon Gray is a southern California native and second-generation police officer. Jon’s interest in public safety aviation began in childhood when he was exposed to tactical flight via the Anaheim police department’s program. His father, a 32-year veteran of the Anaheim police department, encouraged this interest, eventually leading him to pursue a career in public safety aviation. He is a helicopter pilot with the Ontario police department in Ontario, California.
After graduating high school, Jon served as a part-time firefighter for the Crest Forest Fire Protection District while attending the Victor Valley Fire Academy and earning his emt. His experience at Crest Forest Fire opened up the opportunity to work as a seasonal firefighter for the US Forest Service. Jon worked in this capacity for seven fire seasons while attending college at UC Santa Barbara.
After graduating college with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, Jon was hired by San Diego PD as a police officer. At San Diego PD, Jon was assigned to the southern division patrol and the border crime suppression team. He later transferred to the Ontario police department, where he worked patrol, was assigned to the community-oriented policing unit as graffiti and gang investigator, and served collaterally as a hostage negotiator. After nine years in the field, Jon was selected to become a part-time tactical flight officer in the air support unit. He was selected to become a full-time tactical flight officer and ultimately promoted to pilot in 2017. Jon medically retired in May 2023.
During his hour-plus commute to work, Jon would listen to podcasts to pass the time. It wasn’t long before he noticed a void in the podcast segment that represented and promoted public safety aviation. Jon started The Hangar Z podcast in August of 2020 to fill that void.
Jack H. Schonely
Co-host of The Hangar Z Podcast
Jack H. Schonely has been working on the front lines of law enforcement in a wide variety of field assignments for over 36 years. He is a nationally recognized expert in the area of suspect tactics and perimeter containment and is a sought after tactical trainer. Jack is uniquely qualified to speak, instruct and write on the topics of perimeter containment, search techniques, tactics used by suspects, use of force, and a wide variety of air crew topics.
Jack started his law enforcement career as a Deputy Sheriff in Berks County PA before moving to Los Angeles in 1983 and joining the Los Angeles Police Department. He has witnessed firsthand the changes in how the police and the suspects they are chasing are doing business on a daily basis.
After joining the Los Angeles Police Department, Jack worked as a patrol officer where he was first exposed to the concept of perimeter containment as an effective way to apprehend suspects fleeing on foot. He was involved in perimeters on a nightly basis while working as a patrol officer.
Jack became a field training officer before transferring to an undercover assignment working Hollywood Vice. After completing the 18-month vice tour he was selected as an element member of the departments Metropolitan Division. There, he worked across the entire city working crime suppression, bank stake outs, VIP security, and crowd control details.
In late 1992, Jack applied for a position as a K-9 handler within Metropolitan Division. He was transferred into that job and spent the next five years searching for LA’s most dangerous criminals. He participated in over 700 high risk K-9 searches as either the primary handler or search team member. More than 300 of those searches resulted in the capture of the suspect. Jack interviewed numerous suspects after their capture to learn how they attempted to avoid being caught.
His next challenge came working as a Tactical Flight Officer (observer) with LAPD’s Air Support Division coordinating tactical operations on a nightly basis. Many of these incidents involved foot pursuits and perimeter containments. He was the Chief Tactical Flight Officer for a short time before he switched seats in the helicopter and was selected as a Command Pilot at Air Support. He was a Certified Flight Instructor in rotorcraft. Jack was the recipient of the 2004 Air Crew of the Year Award at LAPD Air Support.
Jack has participated in over 2,000 perimeter containments during his career, and he has seen many successes and failures. He has shared his experience with thousands of law enforcement officers across the world instructing on this topic.
He is the author of Apprehending Fleeing Suspects; Suspect Tactics and Perimeter Containment© and has been published in Vertical Magazine, Police Magazine, Air Beat Magazine (journal of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association), Vertical 911 Magazine, and Police K-9 Magazine.
Jack has a B.S. in Criminal Justice from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and is a certified instructor with California Police Officer Standards and Training. Jack was runner-up for the 2005 Governor’s California POST Instructor of the Year Award.
Co-host of The Hangar Z Podcast
Hangar Z cohost, Jeff Ratkovich is an aviation expert with experience in the military, public safety, and private sectors. Born and raised in Northern California, with two Air Force bases in his hometown, Jeff was bitten by the aviation bug at a young age. Upon graduating high school, he enlisted in the Army National Guard where he served six years as a flight medic on MEDEVAC helicopters, while simultaneously serving on active duty with a National Guard counternarcotic taskforce.
After leaving active duty, Jeff moved to Southern California, where he attended a technical college to obtain his FAA Airframe & Powerplant certificate. For the next seven years, Jeff performed aircraft mechanic duties for America West Airlines. During that time, Jeff reenlisted in the National Guard and served as a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew chief. He was deployed to Iraq from 2004 to 2005, where he flew more than six hundred hours in combat.
After returning from Iraq, in 2006, Jeff was hired as a police officer by the Riverside, CA Police Department. He spent five years as a patrol officer, where he held collateral assignments on the Mobile Field Force, Technical Services Unit (Bomb Squad) Search Team, and as an Air Unit Relief Tactical Flight Officer. Jeff also served as Field Training Officer, before being selected as a pilot trainee and fulltime member of the Air Support Unit.
While assigned to the Air Support Unit, Jeff was the Tactical Flight Officer Training Officer, where he helped to train newly assigned TFO’s on the mission, equipment, tactics, and techniques critical to the TFO role. Jeff spent eleven years assigned to the Air Support Unit, accumulating close to four thousand hours in both helicopters and airplanes, flying in support of patrol and surveillance operations.
In 2020, Jeff and his family relocated to the beautiful state of Tennessee, where he is a helicopter pilot for a major air ambulance company. Passionate about aviation, and the airborne enforcement mission in particular, Jeff was honored to join Jon as cohost of the Hangar Z Podcast in November
Host of The Helicopter Podcast
Halsey Schider started his aviation journey at the age of fourteen when he joined the Civil Air Patrol. Eighteen years later, his passion for aviation (specifically helicopters) is stronger than ever. Coupled with his love for aviation, Halsey has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, starting his first business at the age of twelve, mowing lawns.
The earnings from this venture helped him afford his flight lessons at age fifteen. In 2017, Halsey started selling helicopters to create a business that would profit from his helicopter experiences and passion. This past March, Halsey retired from his helicopter air ambulance position to better meet the growing demand for honest helicopter sales representation. Halsey will serve Sellacopter in every capacity and looks forward to growing this business within an industry he loves.
Host of The Real ResQ Podcast
My name is Jason Quinn and I am, United States Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer #500. I joined the Coast Guard in January, 1997. In total, I served 12 years in the US Coast Guard. I completed a two year tour outside our nation’s capital in Alexandria, VA with the US Coast Guard, Honor Guard. Next, I relocated to Elizabeth City, NC. where I completed my Airman training at US Coast Guard, Air Station Elizabeth City, Elizabeth City, NC.
After four months of training with an incredible shop of Rescue Swimmers, I began AST “A” School with amazing classmates to include, Tony Ariola, Shaun Legas, Laurent Magri, Tony Puglia, Pat Roach and Matt Thiessen. At that time we were the largest class to attend AST “A” School. They figured that if they started with eight they would be down to four by the end of phase one. They did not expect us to be such a strong class. We only lost one at the end of phase one, and to give him credit where credit is due, Shane Crew graduated from AST “A” School seven months later. Getting through Rescue Swimmer School was and still has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through. Not saying that I haven’t had other big challenges in my life, but making it through that school, still tops the list. On 03 March 2000, our class graduated from AST “A” School and I officially became USCG Rescue Swimmer #500. I was able to celebrate that accomplishment with my mother and father present, making it one of my proudest moments.
My next duty station was US Coast Guard, Air Station Kodiak, Kodiak, AK. I completed a three year tour there with an incredible group of guys. After many months of training to complete EMT Basic school, HH60 Basic Aircrewmen (BA) and Rescue Swimmer Qualifications, I had my first case. It is most definitely a case I will never forget as our entire crew earned Air Medals that night. During the rest of my tour, I completed my HH65 BA, C130 BA, Advanced Rescue Swimmer School and Survival Training. I deployed multiple times to Cordova, AK., St. Paul, AK., and Cold Bay, AK. While on one of my deployments to Cold Bay, our crew was launched on the biggest case of my career up until that point. It was the case of the F/V Galaxy where PIC Melissa Rivera, SIC Kendell Garran, and Flight Mech Mike Simone earned Air Medals, and I earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. It was an incredible rescue and one that I will never forget.
My next duty station was US Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay in McKinleyville, CA. I completed a six-year tour there with another amazing group of swimmers. While there, I had a few rescues that still stand out to me. These include a couple of cruise ships, a car that drove off a cliff, and boats taking on water. My Coast Guard career ended in May 2009 at twelve years, three months and twenty four days of service.
I have been in civilian helicopter search and rescue since leaving the Coast Guard. I continued my education by qualifying as a Hoist Operator, becoming a NREMT Paramedic, an AHA Instructor and a CrossFit L1 Coach. I’ve been blessed to work around the world standing ready crew and/or teaching helicopter rescue techniques. To date, I have flown on twelve different helicopters, in eight different countries, and I’m still looking forward to the possibilities that may come my way.
My at home life is just as amazing. I have a beautiful wife who supports me in every way possible and three amazing daughters. When all of us are together, the laughing is so contagious that we sometimes can’t even talk. For my ‘down time’, if you want to call it that, I enjoy everything that comes with a good adrenaline rush. From water skiing to snowboarding, swimming in the ocean to hiking a mountain, I love it all. I try to enjoy life to its fullest and take in every moment possible.