Backfire From Germany, joined Oct 2006, 0 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (11 years 7 months 1 week 18 hours ago) and read 709 times:
I believe that it simply refers to the practice of having to pull on a starting-rope to ignite the petrol-engine of a lawn-mower and similar equipment.
The term "rope start" is therefore a jibe at older generation aircraft like the 747-100 which implies (a little unfairly) that their technology is so outdated that they need this kind of 'hand cranking' in order to start the engines - a bit like having to use a starting-handle on a vintage car rather than an ignition key.
It's certainly a phrase used by United Airlines pilots to describe retired aircraft, and I dare say it's common elsewhere too.