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Policing podcast profiles: Step inside “The Hangar Z” to learn about public safety aviation

This podcast hopes to inspire others to get into public safety aviation as well as promote the work being done by current public safety aviation crews

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Photo/Jon Gray

By Police1 Staff

As a child, Jon Gray lived near March Air Force Base in Riverside, California. From there, his dream of becoming a pilot blossomed, but he didn’t know how to turn his dream into reality.

With his experience in firefighting and law enforcement, Gray saw firsthand how helicopters provided support from above and made it his mission to become a pilot. That dream came true in 2017, but it spurred a personal interest: creating a podcast that not only represented and promoted public safety aviation but helped inspire others to get into an aviation career as well.

In this Q&A, Gray talks about his motivation for starting “The Hangar Z Podcast,” his favorite episode to date and provides tips for other officers looking to start their own podcast. Listen and share “The Hangar Z Podcast” with your public safety colleagues on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and more here.

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Living an hour-plus away from work, I am a huge consumer and fan of podcasts. I am also an aviation nerd, which makes sense because I am a law enforcement helicopter pilot for a California police department. I am typically listening to an aviation-themed podcast during my commute to work. In 2020, I listened to a podcast featuring an L.A. County Sheriff “Ghetto Bird Pirate,” who flies their rescue helicopter “Air Rescue 5.” After hearing the interview, I searched for other podcasts that focused on law enforcement or public safety aviation to no avail.

After noticing the void in the podcast segment representing and promoting public safety aviation, I decided to start “The Hangar Z Podcast.” My goal in creating the podcast was to inspire others to get into public safety aviation, to promote the good work being done daily by current public safety aviation crews and to honor contributions made by previous generations.

As of today, “The Hangar Z Podcast” has produced 69 episodes over two years and has interviewed guests from within public safety aviation from across the world.


I had no experience whatsoever. That was one of the mental barriers I had to overcome as I considered starting the podcast. Like most other things I have started, I just decided I could figure it out as I went. The early episodes were a bit rough, but I have continually learned and strived to make each episode better.


Luckily, the financial capital to start podcasting is relatively low. Equipment needed to start a podcast can be as simple as a laptop with a set of earbuds that include a mic and recording software that can be found for free on the internet. As a podcast grows, so does the need for better equipment and advanced editing software that can be very pricey.

For our first episode, I used an old laptop my dad had given me years ago, along with a USB mic borrowed from a friend. Using that equipment, I recorded the first episode of “The Hangar Z Podcast” with retired Sgt. Eric Weidner, which was released on August 13, 2020.

“The Hangar Z Podcast” is no longer reliant on an old computer and a borrowed mic thanks to sponsorships from companies from within the public safety aviation community, such as Metro Aviation, SHOTOVER, CNC Technologies, Bell Flight, Airbus Helicopters, Teledyne Flir and many other companies.

We have now been able to upgrade to an Apple MacBook Pro with a RODEcaster pro audio mixer and a Samson mic. We are fortunate to use (a professional version of Zoom) to record each episode. We use Buzzsprout to host the RSS feed that distributes each episode to individual platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify.


The answer to this question needs to be started with a little background.

In my early childhood, I lived near March Air Force Base in Riverside, Calif. I remember my eyes being drawn upward to watch the military aircraft that was landing and departing. I grew up wanting to be a pilot but had no idea how to accomplish my dream. In my mind, I was as likely to be a pilot as I was to become a professional baseball player.

As an adult, I started my public safety career as a firefighter paying my way through college working for the U.S. Forest Service. After graduation from UC Santa Barbara, I was hired by the San Diego Police Department as a police officer. In both the fire service and law enforcement, helicopters provided support from above and I became infatuated with them. I transferred to Ontario (Calif.) Police Department in 2006 and earned an opportunity to become a part-time observer or Tactical Flight Officer (TFO) in 2013, a full-time TFO in 2014 and was selected to become a pilot in late 2017.

After noticing the void in the podcast segment representing and promoting public safety aviation, I decided to start “The Hangar Z Podcast.” My goal in creating the podcast was to inspire others to get into public safety aviation, to promote the good work being done daily by current public safety aviation crews and to honor contributions made by previous generations.


The public safety aviation community is relatively small. I have been fortunate in that I have been able to network and collaborate with many aircrews from across the U.S. and the world as my career has developed. The network of aircrews I have met over the years helped me to identify guests as the podcast started. As the podcast has grown, my network has grown with it – allowing me to search out referrals for the podcast from the aviation community.

Being a big podcast consumer, I also get guests I find interesting on other podcasts. I then reach out to them to see if they would be interested in joining us on the podcast.


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Jon Gray, “The Hangar Z Podcast” founder and host.

Photo/Jon Gray

As a kid, I had no clue how to become a pilot. Neither of my parents had an aviation background and they probably thought my passion for aviation as a kid was just a fantasy.

Being a pilot now, I have learned that almost everyone in the aviation industry has overcome adversity to get to the position they are in today. I spend approximately half of each interview on “The Hangar Z Podcast” discussing the guest’s background and how they got into aviation. My hope in doing this is that people will be inspired by the wide variety of backgrounds, obstacles overcome and pathways to aviation discussed.

The second half of the episode is spent discussing and outlining the agency my guest comes from. We go over interesting incidents that guests have been a part of during their careers. This segment is designed to provide training and insight for those currently in the public safety aviation industry. Public safety aviation is literally saving lives every day in the United States and across the world.

“The Hangar Z Podcast” utilizes social media to promote the good work done by public safety aviation crews. Our goal in promoting good work is to provide insight to the general public who may never get to hear about the heroic stories and missions that are being completed by public safety aviation crews.

The most rewarding aspect of what we are doing is the impact we are having on others aspiring to get into public safety aviation. We love reading the messages we receive from listeners that have benefited from the content on the podcast.

One listener wrote us recently and described how the content we talk about led him to pursue a position in his department’s aviation unit. He said what he learned listening to the podcast helped him immensely during the interview process to become a TFO. He was ultimately offered a position as a TFO, which he accepted. Today, he is helping to protect the good citizens of Tennessee from the sky.

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When I started the podcast, I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be received the way it has. I was pretty sure my mom and maybe a friend or two would tune in and pat me on the back for trying ... and that would be it.

The feedback has been fantastic so far. The public safety aviation community is a very supportive and tight-knit community, which has been a key piece to its success. We have received positive messages from across the world thanking and encouraging us to continue, which has been very humbling and a huge honor.


We have had a huge number of very impactful episodes. The success of the episode is a result of the high-quality guest that has joined us on the podcast.

If I had to pick one episode, I would say the last episode we recorded was “The Hangar Z Leadership Summit 2023.” In this episode, we brought airborne law enforcement’s best leaders together to discuss leadership and leadership challenges facing public safety aviation today.

This group of leaders includes Clay Lacey from Texas DPS; Terry Miyauchi, retired Arizona DPS and currently at Bell; Jack Schonely, retired from LAPD; Bryan Smith, a current law enforcement pilot in Florida and previous Safety Program Manager for the Airborne Public Safety Association; and Eric Weidner, retired from the Ontario (Calif.) Police Department and current Chief Operations Officer at CNC Technologies.

Each one of these leaders is a giant in the industry and has traveled the globe instructing and promoting the public safety aviation industry. Getting them all together for this event was truly special.

The Hangar Z Podcast can be found anywhere you listen to podcasts or on our website here.


The first thing I did when I decided to launch the podcast was to get the official/unofficial approval of my supervisor. The last thing he needed was to be blindsided by the chief’s office asking about the podcast. If he or she says “no,” then at least you know in advance that your efforts would have been for nothing.

Once you get the blessing to start the podcast, I would recommend doing a fair amount of research to see what equipment and software you need to get started. Don’t get into analysis paralysis though. Once you have a general idea of how to do it, just start. The best lessons are learned by making mistakes and by actually doing the work.

The last piece of advice I would offer is to lean on your network of friends and family to provide constructive criticism as you go along. Find friends who will be honest with you when you create something that isn’t very good. If I can be of any help to anyone who is wanting to create their own podcast, feel free to email me at

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