just found out about this mishappening a few years back. Thought I might share it with you.
A NW flight landed at the Brussels National Airport in Brussels, Belgium. The flight was scheduled to operate from Detroit to Frankfurt. At a very low altitude, after making good visual contact, the Captain realized that the runway before him was not Frankfurt but, in the interest of safety, he elected to complete the landing which was uneventful.
The DTW-FRA flight was a regularly scheduled passenger flight. The rpeflight departure and en route portions of the flight proceeded normally until the airplane entered the airspace under London Center control.
Following initial contact with London over the Irish sea about midway between Cork and Lands End the flight requested and received a clearance to proceed direct to the Konan intersection, a navigation fix on the FIR boundary between London and Belgium. This fix was on the flight's ATC filed routing. At this time the flight was cruising level 37000 feet (FL 370).
As the airplane neared the vicinity of Dover, a clearance to descend to 33000 feet (FL 330) was received. Shortly thereafter the controller issued the first of several radar headings, taking the airplane off it's direct course to Konan. In conjunction with some of the heading changes, additional clearances to descend were received.
The combination of clearances resulted in the airplane being positioned over Konan at 24000 feet (FL 240). As the flight approached Konan, London Control effected a handoff to Brussels Control. When the flight contacted Brussels, the controller advised them that they would make a standard arrival Runway 25 at Brussels. The first officer who was handling the ATC communications acknowledged transmission by saying "runway 25, NW 52". Neither pilot noted or recalled hearing the closing words "at Brussels". A while later they were issued a radar heading (100°) that took it off the flight planned airway to the north (left). Further clearances to descend to Flightlevel 160 and Flightlevel 80 were received a while later.
Then the flight was cleared to the Bruno VOR (located a bit to the northeast of BRU). The first officer queried the controller about this VOR because he didn't know where it was and it was not on their flight plan.
The controller responded by issuing a heading towards the Bruno VOR.
The crew was still unable to locate the VOR because they were looking at the Frankfurt area chart. They called the controller again and he responded that their present heading was "fine" and that they still had another 33 miles to go.
They were given the frequency of Bruno VOR and then handed over to Brussels arrival on one-one-eight-decimal-two-five.
AT 08.08.20 the flight called "…furt arrival" leaving FL 83 for FL 80. The controller acknowledged "Good morning NW 52, descend to 2000 feet, QNH 1003, wind clam for runway 25".
The NW flight requested the transition level because they were unable to listen to the ATIS on the Frankfurt frequency because they were outside the range of Frankfurt ATIS.
During the next minuted the controller provided two radar headings that turned the flight to the south east and then to the south west. A few minuted later the controller issued the approach clearance for the ILS 25.
AT 08.16.00 the flight called "Frankfurt tower, NW 52 is established on the ILS 25".
The controller did not correct this misidentification and acknowledged.
NW flight 52 called the tower again to ensure they have visual contact. This was acknowledged by the controller. When the pilots made visual contact with the airport the pilot said "that something didn't look right".
The captain stated that at around 500 feet AGL he knew definitely that the runway he was looking at was not FRA. His deduction was not based on the runway configuration, however, but on the recollection that the FRA runway was white concrete and the runway at which he was looking black asphalt. At this time he made the decision that, not knowing their exact location, the safest thing was to land the airplane and sort it out on the ground.
So, what do you think ?