Police in Quebec are working with airports and other law enforcement agencies across Canada and the United States to track down three inmates who made a daring escape from a prison using a helicopter.

This marks the second time in 15 months that inmates have escaped a Quebec prison with the help of a chopper.

Three men fled the Orsainville Detention Centre near Quebec City Saturday night, after a green helicopter briefly touched down on one of the prison's courtyards.

Surete du Quebec spokesperson Audrey-Anne Bilodeau said the helicopter then took off and was seen flying west from the prison.

Police partners at nearby airports and military bases have been alerted of the incident.

The prisoners have been identified as Yves Denis, 35, Denis Lefebvre, 53, and Serge Pomerleau, 49. The men were being held at the detention centre waiting to stand trial.

Sgt. Gregory Gomez Del Prado said that at the time of their arrest the inmates were considered members of organized crime. They are considered dangerous, he added.

"There's a potential for danger with any person who's in prison and detained," he told CTV News Channel Sunday.

There is now a massive manhunt underway to locate the prisoners, involving law enforcement agencies in Quebec, the rest of Canada and the U.S., Gomez Del Prado said.

He declined to give further details about the manhunt, citing a desire to keep valuable logistical information from the prisoners.

Officers are also pleading with the public for help.

Police are asking anyone who has any information about the case or the three men to contact them. Anyone who sees the prisoners should not try and apprehend them, officers warn.

Gomez Del Prado said that investigators are not ruling out any possibilities as to the prisoners' whereabouts, including the possibility that the men could have fled the province.

He said the first priority of police is to locate the escaped prisoners as quickly as possible. Any recommendations or revelations to stem from the incident will be addressed after the inmates are secured.

"We'll see at the end the concerns regarding (the incident) and that will be addressed by the authorities," he said.

Saturday's brazen escape had many similarities to another Quebec prison break from March 2013.

In that case, two inmates fled a prison in St-Jerome, Que., with the help of a helicopter. The helicopter pilot had been forced to fly the aircraft at gunpoint, according to police.

Within hours of that escape, the two inmates and two men accused of hijacking the aircraft were apprehended by police in Mont-Tremblant, Que.

With files from The Canadian Press