The “jet Lesage” in the sky of the quiet Revolution

Le «jet à Lesage» dans le ciel de la Révolution tranquille

Photo: Ministère des Transports du Québec
A speed of 740 km/h, the “jet Lesage” is, during a quarter of a century, the small quebec counterpart of the “Air Force One” american.

Marco Bélair-Cirino and

Dave Christmas

in the national Assembly

30 July 2018

  • Quebec

The Blue room in the “jet to Lesage, ” passing through the 12th floor of the headquarters of Hydro-Quebec in Montreal, The Duty flew over some of the places of power where the modern Québec was built. The third of four texts.

In 1964, at the heart of a decade marked by the race to the Moon, the team the thunder from Jean Lesage acquires a “réacté” DH-125. A speed of 740 km per hour, the “jet à Lesage ” is, during a quarter of a century, the small quebec counterpart the Air Force One american.

“The kings negroes, in Africa, have Cadillac and our prime minister, a plane jet,” growls the leader of the national Union, Daniel Johnson, in may 1965. The twin-engine aircraft from the aircraft manufacturer british de Havilland, which was purchased for 775 000 $, represents the most economic solution, defends Jean Lesage in the house, while voltigeant to dodge the strikes of the opposition.

The “small jet” can accommodate up to seven passengers, two pilots and a ” steward “. In addition to the members of the government, it must be used in the transportation of prisoners, and the sick. “The time of a prime minister is a precious time. I often deal with Montreal, and this for the greater good of the province, ” recalls Lesage before leaving abruptly the living room then green. “That’s why he bought a jet… to save faster !” launches the mp and unionist Paul-Émile Allard.

The ” play-boys “, and the ceos of large companies may have had personal, but not the prime minister, insists Daniel Johnson, accusing his liberal opponents to be secured, at great expense, something “flashy ” : “It is the policy of greatness that we want to replace by a policy of height. “Johnson tries therefore to award a nickname for the DH-125, is John 1.

See a video from the archives of the ” jet à Lesage “


The inaugural flight takes place in November 1965. In 22 minutes, the twin-engine aircraft cross the 250 kilometres between the airports of Dorval and L’ancienne-Lorette — respectively become Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau airport and Jean-Lesage. On the tarmac, the journalists attending the descent of the device in grey and white criss-crossed by a wide horizontal stripe cobalt blue. The Quebec coat of arms are painted under the cockpit, while one can read the inscription “Transport and Communications of Québec” at the top of the portholes. “Its inside is lined with hangings decorated with a pattern with maple leaves and the word Québec to emphasize its membership in canada and quebec at the same time “, describes the daily The Sun. “Furniture has been designed according to the needs of senior officials of the province who will be able to work or chat while they are travelling. “

The furniture consist of a table and three chairs on the starboard side, and a table, two chairs and a couch to port, the whole orange, including the curtains.

The “jet à Lesage ” in images

The line driver Paul Gagnon remembers the controversy surrounding the acquisition of the ” jet à Lesage “, he went to seek him-even in England in 1964. Ironically, Jean Lesage is mounted on board a dozen times, and this has been sufficient to associate his surname. “Mr. Lesage had been in the army as a major, so he knew the geography. He often came into the cockpit to chat with the rest of us. He took great interest in the operation of the aircraft, ” says Mr Gagnon in an interview with Le Devoir.

Jet-set 67

In the aftermath of its electoral victory in 1966, Daniel Johnson “inherits from the airplane” that he had pourfendu. By principle, he refused to board, preferring to travel in the old DC-3 by the government, even if it is three times less fast. The driver Paul Gagnon tries to make her listen to reason. It flies at low altitude, where the shocks are stronger, and even asked his mechanic to remove a wheel of the DC-3 before take-off for forcing the prime minister to board the jet. “This is it, jet ?” asks Mr. Johnson scanning the DH-125.

[Daniel Johnson] was at the time, in contrast to René Lévesque. He was never on time.

— Paul Gagnon

The members of the national Union eventually adopted the DH-125. The unionists the requisition for 2321 hours, compared to 157 for the liberals to Mr. Lesage. Alone, the minister Marcel Masse is used 147 times in three years, closely followed by Daniel Johnson (119 flights).

The engines of the DH-125 run tirelessly during the universal Exhibition of 1967, Montreal, during which the small device is used to transport dignitaries. Prince Albert of Belgium and princess Paola — the ” most beautiful woman in the world “, according to the magazines people of the time — take the plane to visit the seals of the Great North of quebec. They will, however, be a false hope. The youngest son of the prime minister, Pierre Marc Johnson, who is employed in the protocol, accompanies them to Fort Chimo (Kuujjuaq).

A place of work

The jet is above all a place of work. “It happened with a lot of documents. They sat there and they were not moving the volume They signed the documents, ” said Paul Gagnon. The prime ministers have not all the same time : “Mr. Lesage was to the minute. Mr. Johnson came to the airport on time, but then, he could sit down and talk with all the mechanics and drivers before taking the plane. But aside from that, he was on time, unlike René Lévesque. He was never on time. “

Claude Morin steals him also in the famous jet as deputy minister of intergovernmental Affairs under the Lesage, Johnson, Bertrand and Bourassa. He returned as a minister in the government of René Lévesque. In 1979, he borrows the device for a week to inaugurate the delegation of Quebec in Venezuela. “[Mr. Levesque’s] had need of the aircraft a given time and then they brought the old plane [a DC3]. He said : “what is that ?” On the way back, he made the joke : “The next time you emparerez of the air fleet in québec, I will say.” “

Last lap of the track

The “jet à Lesage ” made his last flight on 18 February 1990 in carrying the Finance minister Gérard D. Lévesque, between Chaleur bay and Montreal. After 25 years, 25 280 missions will appear on the meter. The venerable device is sold to an american company, and then dismantled in may 1995. “We did a lot of medical emergencies also, medical evacuations,” says the latest driver for the device, Jean-Paul Demers, in a documentary made in 1990 by the ministry of Transport. “It makes us something, because, when it was believed an air service, it was thought the DH-125. This is the plane that scored the most, I think, the development of air service for the carriage of passengers. “

Two Fairchild F-27, which was acquired by Quebec in the early 1970s, to supplement the fleet fleur-de-lis. In February 1995, one of them performs an emergency landing in Quebec because of a landing gear capricious. The prime minister Jacques Parizeau figure among the passengers. The device performs loops over the capital in order to empty the tanks of kerosene, and then landed without a hitch. The life of the head of the State has been compromised at the dawn of the referendum on the independence of Quebec ? “No,” assures Paul Gagnon Duty. Because even if we were forced to land without landing gear, there is no great danger. “

The F-27 suffered an other damage four years later. An engine fails after you have deposited Lucien Bouchard in Montreal. The incident is used to release the necessary budget for the acquisition of the Challenger of opportunity, Bombardier, at a cost of 15 million u.s. dollars.

The device registration C-GQBQ is also the target of criticism from the opposition. “The commodity the more rare that I, me, this is my time “, claimed the prime minister Jean Charest in 2011. Other times, other customs, the opposition adéquiste denounces then the pollution generated by the airplane of the executive. “How can one side claim to be the champion of the environment and on the other hand pollute happily when he takes the Challenger ?” she launches Gérard Deltell. It is aboard the Challenger that Jean Charest returned to Quebec in the aftermath of his election defeat on September 4, 2012. The device is turned into airplane hospital the following year. Since then, the head of the government of quebec charters of airplanes or helicopters private.

Quebec should we need to re – jet ? “Me, I find that this is more relevant than ever,” replied the old pilot Paul Gagnon, pointing to security considerations. “Mr. Lesage, it happened that he had taken an Air Canada flight. In the terminal, the people on the dock. In the plane, people want to talk to him. Even if it were not for the security issue, this man can’t travel in public. “