Did anyone piloting a Space Shuttle ever make a significant pilot error? (I've never heard of any, and I'm curious if that is due to their extensive training, or if it's just that that sort of incident isn't well-publicized)
Here are two famous incidents that happened on landing. One was a test landing and software changes were made afterwards. The other was an early flight and the experience base was not very large. Pilot error / poor handling qualities / design of the ship? You can make up your own mind.
The first is the "Enterprise PIO" (PIO standing for Pilot Induced Oscillation). The only time an Orbiter landed and took off again without SRBs... Shuttle Approach and Landing Test 5, 26 October 1977.
The second is the only time an Orbiter ever landed at White Sands, on STS-3, 30 March 1982. I well remember former astronaut Gene Cernan who was serving as a TV commentator calling this "aerodynamic braking". Nice spin, Gene. Touchdown is at about 4:24 into this video and the incident happens shortly thereafter.
There were many other small incidents over the long history of the Space Shuttle Program.
- On STS-9 (8 Dec 1983) (probably the scariest shuttle entry of all time that made it, with a dual Auxiliary Power Unit explosion and fire plus multiple onboard computer failures) the crew misconfigured some flight control system switches when the second computer failed on touchdown - they worked the procedure for a normal configuration instead of the modified configuration that they were in because of the first failure. This mistake could have been catastrophic in flight but didn't have any bad effects on rollout.
- On STS-37 (11 April 1991) the Orbiter touched down 600 feet short of the runway. Fortunately this was on a dry lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base and not the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center.
- Here's an orbital piloting one - On STS-87 (launched 19 Nov 1997), crew procedural errors resulted in a power-off deployment of a subsatellite. Subsequent unscripted piloting attempts to recapture the subsatellite used up so much much propellant that Mission Control feared the mission would have to be cut short and called off the attempt.
A funny Wayne Hale blog post about how each shuttle landing was extensively analyzed and each little discrepancy pointed out, and how the crew feared this, can be read here.