Surprised with the amount tablets are being integrated into cockpits that printers are still common. How long until we start seeing printers on the flight deck being replaced with PDF files?
Not with PDF files, but this is already happening. We don't print takeoff performance calculations anymore, for example. Just read if off the app, enter into the FM, and then send the figures off for archiving.
It will take time to go completely paperless, if we ever do, but it isn't like we print a massive amount of stuff. Compared to the dozens of pages we used to get even before we got on the plane, all now replaced by iPad apps, the amount of paper printed in the cockpit is trivial.
It is still handy in many cases to get a printout since you can make annotations on the printout. For example, if you get weather for the enroute airports, you can annotate the preferred approach next to the weather. Mentally, this makes a better "connection".
Most of us still use paper for notes, e.g. when receiving a clearance by voice, because it is way faster and easier than typing on an iPad. We might have to enter it in the flight log on the iPad later, but at that point you can take your time.
Surprised with the amount tablets are being integrated into cockpits that printers are still common.
When things get critical (eg avionics/power failure), paper is worth more than printer.
How long until we start seeing printers on the flight deck being replaced with PDF files?
For a reason above? Probably until there's no one left in the cockpit.
Side note: PDF is not a best standard there, it's just common across the world of pc users. There are plenty of other open formats that you would prefer.
The printer is not really critical in an emergency. If we can't communicate via ACARS and the printer, we can call up on VHF, HF or SATCOM. In normal situations, however, it is very useful.
Checlkists and most QRH items are already moving to electronic format. The A350 QRH is only a fraction of the thickness of the A330 one because most of those procedures are contained in the "Not-sensed Procedures" menu in ECAM.
The printer can be inoperative under MMEL but imagine the implication of not having it - like for example that there would be no auto print of Report 15 (suspected hard landing).
AFAIK that report will still be sent off electronically. So even if we don't get the printout the information will get out, so to speak.