It is not exclusively the fault of the pilots, but rather a large amount of the blame rests with the airlines, who in an effort to wring every last penny out of a their investment, do not want to “waste” a pilot with hours of training that remove them from revenue generating customer carrying flights.
But because of the short amount of time the pilots are engaged in flying their aircraft, they simply lack time needed to develop the skills needed to cope with the problems they may face during an emergency.
As autonomous control features are added to motor vehicles, from systems that will apply the brakes when your vehicle approaches too closely to another car, to systems that keep your vehicle in your lane, both of which are available on some 2014 model cars, it is likely that many drivers’ skills will deteriorate to the point where they will have little ability to take over vehicle operations when some computer system fails.
One lesson to take from the AF 447 disaster is that when looking at motor vehicles, we will need to be very careful and vary wise in choosing which systems to make mandatory and what level of control human drivers should retain.
In most cases, it is likely that fully autonomous cars would be much safer, and would reduce the number of highway fatalities by tens of thousands.
But we should be careful not to oversell the systems capabilities and determining how to create vehicles whose electronic systems can “fail safe” and not, like the Toyota unintended acceleration incidents, fail in such a way as kill or maim their occupants.
Vanity Fair, “The Human Factor,” William Langewiesche, October 2014