On the scale of human brains, the type of flying described in the article is actually pretty easy. I've taught children as young as six years old to do it [in the pods shown at http://www.museumofflight.org/programs/aviation-learning-cen... ], and even younger kids show promise but didn't have the physical ability to use the control setup (the stick was too big, the chairs weren't tall enough, etc.) Honestly, walking is a considerably more elaborate task than flying a jet on a PC simulator.
I'm still impressed that an artificial brain was able to do it.
They've evolved a neural network (in this case, made of real neurons instead of computer simulation) which presumably emits certain signals when it does not detect the horizon in the correct position. It's impressive, but I don't think they were having it take off from an aircraft carrier and land at JFK.
Flying straight and level is More or less the me dificulty of driving a pedal cart in your street (with an added dimension up and down). Old time jets were very tricky to flight due to their high inestability. But modern flybywire combat jets must be easy to fly( even if they are impossible to fly without computers due to their crazy inestability), because the hard part is outside in the combat theater.
Also like in sea combat, the most important part is not being a skill beast (aerobatic champion), is more about knowing how to obtain the best positions, that gives you advantage against your enemies.
Any way I don't see rat brains landing in a n aircraft carrier anytime soon!
Controlling pitch and roll while at altitude is not actually very impressive, no. If you were writing code to do this, you'd probably just slap a PID controller on each axis, tune the coefficients, and be done. You might break 100 lines of code if you like being verbose.
Yeah, you'd think it should have ushered-in a few more serious applications but given that, as others mention, the article is from 2004, it seems that indeed "more elaborate applications are a long way off".