Last Saturday 17th June, an Air Nova (Air Canada connector) Dash-8 on a flight from Montéal-Dorval Int'l to Mont-Joli, a city located about 400 nm downstream of Montréal on the south shore of the Saint-Lawrence river, landed instead at Rimouski airport which is about 25 nm upstream of the destination. It is only once arrived at the terminal building that some ground personnel informed the flying crew that they landed at the wrong airport. They took off immediately to land again in Mont-Joli 25 min. later. The pilots said they were only flying 'by sight' therefore not relying on their instruments. The Transport Safety Board said they won't make an inquiry because this is not an accident in itself. However, the carrier will do an internal inquiry.
I've lived and flown (as a passenger) around there for a few years and I know that the surroundings and the configuration of the two airports are very different. Rimouski, which is the regional capital of the Bas-Saint-Laurent/Gaspésie region, has a very basic airport with only one small runway and very little service to the point that even a connector like Air Nova doesn't fly there. The airport is located nearly in town so therefore a fair amount of 'urbanity' (houses and streets) is around. Mont-Joli, the regional airport, is a former air force base with 2 or 3 runways and is located in a remote area away from nearly everything, the municipality of Mont-Joli being very small.
Questions: is it normal to fly what still a commercial airplane only 'by sight'? Is the local ATC could be faulty in this? With such a 'visual difference' between the two airports'look, how did the pilots managed that?