>>Can you turn off all the gee whiz crap and fly it without interference from the autopilot?<<
Now I'm only talking about the A300/310 models of Airbus. I know nothing about the newer generation of Buses and their automation.
The answer to your question is "yes", you can turn all the "crap" off.
You simply revert to hand flying and manually moving the throttles...just like any other airplane.
I think one of the problems with the autopilot(s) on the A300/310 is the required force (push/pull) on the yoke by the pilot is greater than on the Boeings. The pilot can end up fighting for control over the autopilot if he doesn't use the disconnect button on the yoke, as some of the Airbus accidents have proven. Pushing and pulling on the yoke IS NOT the correct way to normally disconnect the autopilot(s). It's only a safety feature. Autopilots are normally diconnected by a push button on the yoke and if pilots of the accident aircrafts had used that button first it probably would have solved alot of their problems.
Getting back to the push/pull force required on the yoke by the pilot to disconnect the autopilot. Remember Eastern 401 (L1011) that crashed in the Florida everglades? The Captain bumped the yoke as he got up out of his seat to investigate a problem. The autopilot disconnected too easily along with the fact there wasn't any autopilot disconnect warnings that airliners have today. EA 401 simply flew straight and level into the glades because no one noticed the autopilot wasn't on. That accident change the way autopilots are designed and the warnings associated with them. They now require more force on the yoke to disconnect so a simple "pump" on the yoke doesn't create problems and there's also a warning anytime the autopilot is disconnected for any reason.
>>This question is specifically for Heavyjet since you've instructed in both brands of aircraft.<<
I've only instructed on the B75/76. I just got typed on the A300 last week at FlightSafety and will begin instructing in about a month. Our first A300 arrives in a couple of weeks. The instructors down at FltSafety talked about the problems teaching some of the asian carrier pilots. For one, there's a big language problem. Keep in mind all warnings and checklists are displayed on a ECAM screen in english. While the crewmembers are required to speak english (at least on the radio) many struggle. You can see where confusion might arise during a non-normal situation if everything's in English and that's not your 1st language. During stressful situations you'll probably revert back to speaking your native tongue while trying to read messages on the ECAM and checlist that are in English, some items requiring immediate action. Combine that with culture atmosphere in many of the asian countries of a very authoritarian Capt and a new young inexperienced F/O flying an automated airplane. Not exactly the best CRM environment. Mistakes are made under stress and if you don't understand the automation it's very easy to get behind the power curve...both you and the airplane's.