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.

Challenger 601 Captains Gilbert d'Amours (L) and Jean-Yves Lafontaine complete checklist procedures.

Today, SAG operates from 2 permanent bases-YQB and YHU. The Challengers, the Dash 8 and the tankers are based at YQB. As noted above, during the fire season the tankers are dispatched to forward bases closer to the action.

Surete du Quebec's helicopter operations base at YHU includes a full maintenance shop. Seven pilots, 3 technicians and 1 support employee are posted there.


Since Jan 2004, the SAG team has been led by General Mgr Lucien Tremblay, a long-time public servant.

All 191 members of SAG report ultimately to him. Key members of his team include Mgr Customer Service & Promotion Pierre Angers and SAG's 3 chief pilots-Jean-Pierre Guay for fire bombers, Luc Roy for business jets and Claude Simard for helicopters.

SAG achieves its 4 mission mandates with 75 pilots, 55 technicians, 9 flight regulators and 6 flight attendants, in addition to personnel dedicated to administration, aircraft charter and training. Medical personnel consist of around 20 doctors and 10 nurses from Quebec City L'Enfant-Jesus Hospital.

The mission commander is a police officer when the helicopters are operated on behalf of Surete du Quebec. CL215/415 pilots must be qualified to fly a tanker of more than 30,000 lbs gross weight, and must have at least 3000 hrs TT, including 1500 as a seaplane PIC, 2000 as a bush plane PIC, or 2000 as copilot on an SAG tanker.

To reach the rank of captain on business aircraft, a candidate must have accumulated 4000 hrs TT (including at least 3000 in SAG's business aircraft), with 300 hrs instrument and 1000 hrs as PIC of an airplane of more than 19,000 lbs gross weight.

Tanker copilot candidates often come from bush aviation, and must have at least 2500 hrs TT, including 1500 as a seaplane PIC.

A business aircraft copilot must hold a professional multiengine licence for an aircraft over 12,500 lbs gross weight and have 3000 hrs in multiengine turboprops or jets, regardless of weight. To fly helicopters, a rotary-wing licence and 1500 hrs are required.

Training and maintenance

Most fixed-wing maintenance is carried out in-house at YQB. Here technicians change a Challenger's GECF34 engine.

Helicopter pilots and copilots undergo initial and recurrent training at FlightSafety Intl DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth TX), while Challenger flightcrews attend FlightSafety Intl YUL and Dash 8 crews go to FlightSafety Intl YZD (Downsview, Toronto ON).

SAG has developed a complete training program for the Bombardier 415-approved by Transport Canada-on a Level 6 flight training device (FTD). Unique in the world and in service since Jan 2003, the CL415 FTD was conceived and developed in Quebec by Adacel and Mechtronix. Replicating a CL415 cockpit and equipped with a 35 x 12-ft 180 degrees visual field, it reproduces all weather conditions and emergencies.

The system also allows crews to learn the operations of scooping and dropping water at treetop level. All fixed-wing aircraft maintenance is carried out by SAG personnel at YQB. Helicopter maintenance is done at YHU, except for powerplant overhaul, which is outsourced.

Fleet plans

On Jul 11, 2008, as the leasing contracts on its 8 Bombardier 415s were due to start expiring, the Quebec government authorized SAG to purchase the aircraft outright at a cost of C$90 million.

Although the oldest CL215s in SAG's fleet have served for more than 40 years, there are no plans to replace any of them. Average annual utilization is only 250 hrs, and they are likely to continue in active service for a long time thanks to meticulous maintenance.

On Jan 24, 2008, the Quebec government announced that 2 new twinjet aircraft of unspecified (but identical) type would be purchased to replace SAG's Challenger 601-1A and DHC8-200. Approximate cost was given as C$40 million.

One aircraft will be used for EMS missions and the other as a medical shuttle to replace the Dash 8. SAG has been charged with establishing the technical requirement, and an invitation to tender should be launched before the end of 2009.

Meanwhile, it has been recommended that the medical shuttles for scheduled non-urgent transfers, currently undertaken by SAG's Dash 8, be handled by the private sector-specifically, by one or more Quebec air carriers.



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