In early 1988 Rodney Stiff and Phil Ainsworth formed Jabiru to develop a highly efficient, composite designed, light aircraft. After four years the Jabiru LSA 55/2K model aircraft was type certificated by the Australian Civil Aviation Authority under an Australian standard (CAO 101.55) similar to the later introduced USA/FAA Primary Category. The type certificate was awarded on 1 October 1991, but only one month later their Italian engine manufacturer (IAME-KFM112M) advised that it was ceasing aircraft engine manufacture. The KFM engine was then the lightest 4 stroke engine available on the market and the Jabiru aircraft had been developed around this engine.
Earlier prototypes powered by 2 strokes had proven to be most unreliable and the 2 stroke concept had been abandoned. 20 KFM powered Jabiru's were produced, although most have now been re-powered with Jabiru engines.
Relying on their previous experience in the sugarcane harvesting equipment industry, Rod and Phil decided that here was a significant opportunity to develop lightweight aircraft engines in the 30-120hp range. The first step was to develop a 60hp engine to power their new Jabiru aircraft (now without an engine). In an intensive research and development program the Jabiru 1600cc engine was developed over a period of 18 months. In March 1993 this new engine was approved by Australian CAA for installation in Jabiru aircraft. 54 '1600' powered aircraft were manufactured over the period April 93 to March 96 (many of these have now been repowered with the larger Jabiru 2200 engine).
Jabiru displayed their aircraft and 1600 engine at Oshkosh 94. The reception of both products was very encouraging and also highlighted the need for a larger capacity engine. The 2200 engine development commenced immediately and that engine was first displayed at Sun 'n Fun 95. 24 were released to the market in September 1995.