Service Aerien Gouvernemental, Quebec's helping hand to the world

Using water bombers, Challenger jets, Bell helos and a Dash 8 TP, SAG suppresses forest fires, combats crime and saves lives.

Quebec SAG Bombardier 415 in action. From early May to the end of August the province's fleet of fire bombers is kept busy on the home front. For the rest of the year aircraft are regularly deployed overseas.

In contrast, last summer only 600 hrs were necessary. At the end of March, crews begin training at the YQB home base. As well as time in the simulator, training consists of a 1-hr flight every 3 days including a scoop and a drop.

Twenty crews consisting of 2 pilots and a technician work 15 days followed by 3 days off.

In addition to its YQB headquarters, SAG uses 9 satellite bases depending on the location of fires-Riviere Bonnard QC, YBC (Baie-Comeau QC), YMT (Chibougamau QC), YMW (Maniwaki QC), YNM (Matagami QC), YRJ (Robeval QC), YVB (Bonaventure QC), YVO (Val d'Or QC) and YZV (Sept-Iles QC).

Directed toward the hearts of fires by a spotter plane, the CL215/415 crews carry out missions against fires that may be 90 min flying time from the launching base. Missions can last up to 4 hrs.

Medical transport

For medical emergencies, SAG relies on its specially configured Challenger 601-1A, bought new in 1988, to evacuate patients requiring critical hospital treatment in Montreal and Quebec City.

Its specialized interior was installed by YUL-based Innotech-Execaire. The Challenger can carry up to 7 patients accompanied by a doctor and 2 nurses, and has been used in missions as far afield as Abitibi, Iles de la Madeleine or the far north of the province.

SAG General Manager Lucien Tremblay. All 191 SAG personnel report ultimately to him.

Every year some 1900 patients benefit from this service, including around 200 babies. Named "l'Ange Blanc" (White Angel), this aircraft racks up 2000 hrs annually (compared with an average of 600 across the fleet).

This is the highest flight time Challenger in the world, having achieved more than 25,000 flight hours and 30,000 cycles. Programmed medical flights, which are accomplished only under nurse escort, are used for transferring to Montreal and Quebec City seated patients and stretcher patients in stable condition who require specialized care.

For Abitibi, Gaspésie and eastern Quebec this service is ensured by SAG's Dash 8, which makes 4 scheduled flights a week distributed over 3 days. Air Creebec covers the far north of the province with a twice-weekly Beechcraft King Air 100 flight.

The Dash 8 substitutes for "l'Ange Blanc" in the event of maintenance or minor mechanical breakdowns. It is also highly suitable for those destinations in northern Quebec with short runways, or which are frozen or covered with snow.

Territory surveillance

Based at YHU (Saint-Hubert QC), south of Montreal, SAG's 3 helicopters and their crews are used by Surete du Quebec. The law enforcement agency uses the helicopters-a Bell 206B, a 206LT and a winch-equipped Bell 412EP with a Wescam system-for monitoring special events, detecting floods and searching for missing people anywhere in the province.

Between them the 2 Bell 206s accumulate around 350 hrs a years. The 412 is flown considerably more-some 400 hrs annually.


SAG is tasked with transporting the prime minister and his staff, and uses the Challenger 601-3A in this role.

This aircraft was acquired by SAG in 1999, having left the factory in 1989. It does not leave Quebec for more than 4 or 5 consecutive days and has never flown further than Western Europe.

The unit also uses its Dash 8 to fly personnel and goods on behalf of Quebec government departments and agencies. In the event of a medical or other emergency, both these aircraft can be requisitioned by the Quebec Public Safety Agency at any time.

Since Feb 2007, Aéro Chartering, which is managed by the Quebec Air Transport Association (AQTA) on behalf of its members, has taken care of transportation for the province's ministries. In 2007 AQTA carried out no fewer than 558 such charter flights-totaling 1116 hrs-using mainly King Airs but also Cessna Caravans and Pilatus PC12s.

Ambassadors abroad

Each September, when Quebec's fire season draws to an end, SAG's yellow and red Canadair tankers begin flying in other skies. SAG crews and airplanes have fought fires in Chile since 1968 and in Argentina in 1981 and 2001.

In 1985, 1986 and 1998 SAG served in Mexico. Turkey joined the list of countries in 1996. On several occasions SAG has assisted firefighting efforts in the US, starting with Arkansas in 1987, North Carolina in 1990 and 1991, and, since 1994, California.

SAG Bombardier DHC8-200 during a break between missions.

Following 2 consecutive 5-year agreements with the county of Los Angeles, a third contract was signed for the years 2006-10. Two Bombardier 415s and their crews left Quebec last Aug 29 bound for VNY (Van Nuys CA) where they stayed until late December-typically the end of the fire season in the Golden State.

Last September, SAG reached an agreement with San Diego County for a 90-day deployment of 2 Bombardier 415s and their crews of 4 pilots, 4 copilots and 3 technicians. Crews were relieved every 30 days.

California represents a special challenge for SAG tanker pilots because they have to work in windy conditions and scoop in the surging water of the Pacific. Technicians must also take every precaution to remove salt spray from the planes on their return to base, in order to avoid corrosion.


SAG purchased a simulator in 1963. The following year, the unit inaugurated a vast building at YQB which included a maintenance hangar, an executive terminal, a flight coordination room, classrooms, a dispatch center, conference room, cafeteria and administrative offices.

These headquarters were remodeled in 1980. A helicopter hangar was added in 1985 and the whole complex named after Roger Demers, the SAG pilot who in 1975 founded the Association des Gens de l'Air du Québec to demand the right for pilots and air controllers to speak French while flying in Quebec airspace.


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