I somehow missed this last week:
The first officers at the controls of Air France 447 (the captain was initially on his rest break when the troubles began) were not apprentices. They were fully rated, Airbus A330 pilots with thousands of hours of experience. Of course they were trained in "manual aircraft handling"! And yet again we have the suggestion that a "manually" flown plane is some sort of oddity, and that pilots aren't used to it. This is bollocks.
That the pilots lacked this training is worthy of some focus. Jetliners behave very differently at upper altitudes. It's a less forgiving, less stable realm, and high-altitude stalls are extremely dangerous. But all pilots understand these principles, and would be expected to fall back on basic flying skills. In any case, it may not have made any difference. The crew reacted improperly, it seems, in the throes of a high-altitude stall, turning a difficult situation into a catastrophic one. But consider the circumstances: They were dealing with multiple critical failures, in violent weather, in darkness.
"The crew was left attempting to recover their aircraft in heavy weather while their primary displays were constantly going blank and resetting," says Dave White, a former Airbus captain. "One imagines how confusing the cockpit must have been with all the malfunctions -- and, consequently, no idea what instruments to trust. I question the unstated assumption that the crew was seeing the same data that the flight data recorder was getting. I would also like to know if the mishap aircraft was showing even basic attitude data to the crew. It is possible those displays were also blanking out during the descent -- or providing erroneous data. In my opinion, hardware and software failures resulted in a situation that perhaps no crew would be able to recover from. This was a design accident, not a pilot error accident."
This is not the first time the BEA blamed pilots when the Airbus software might have contributed more, by the way.