Bombardier Aerospace is ramping up deliveries of its Global aircraft now that transition to the Vision flight deck is nearly complete, but the slowdown in the quarter, combined with continued sluggishness in the commercial sector, led to a $700 million drop in first-quarter revenues.

Bombardier, which this year shifted all reporting to the calendar year, rather than using a fiscal period starting Feb. 1, generated $1.5 billion in revenues in the first three months of 2012, down from the $2.2 billion posted for last year’s fiscal first quarter. Earnings before interest and taxes also decreased, to $91 million from $141 million in the first quarter of 2011.

Deliveries were down by 40% from 61 aircraft in the first quarter of 2011 to 37 this year. Of those, business jets accounted for 29 shipments, while only seven commercial aircraft were delivered. Bombardier also delivered one amphibious aircraft.

Net orders also fell, to 61 this year from 86 in 2011’s first quarter. Forty orders were for business jets, boosting the backlog to $23.3 billion at the end of March, compared with $22 billion as of Dec. 31, 2011.

Bombardier Aerospace President and Chief Operating Officer Guy Hachey concedes that the commercial sector continues to slump, as economic uncertainty in the company’s traditional markets in North America and Europe combines with higher fuel prices and increased competition to depress sales. Customers “are following the same model: caution,” notes Hachey.

But there is an optimism at the manufacturer, and Pierre Beaudoin, president and CEO of parent company Bombardier Inc., is keen to note that the slower traditional sectors have spurred the company to build its international sales network to reach emerging markets. Those efforts, he says, are starting to “bear fruit.”

Bombardier executives were upbeat about the orders taken so far this year, which Hachey says amount to 110, including options and letters of intent. Even so, Hachey expects “caution will continue” in the commercial markets this year, and he reiterates the company will deliver 55 aircraft, down from 78 last year.

Commercial sales, however, will pick up as the CSeries continues to develop, Bombardier says. On track for first flight this year, the new aircraft is expected to enter service by the end of 2013.

Hachey cites a forecast for up to 7,000 aircraft valued at $424 billion in the 100- to 149-seat category over the next 20 years, half of which will be replacements and half expansion. Bombardier expects to capture about half of that market with the CSeries, Hachey adds.

As for Bombardier’s Global program, Hachey expects the company “will quickly get back to traditional levels” of Global deliveries after warning in March that the transition to the new Vision flight deck would slow that program in the first quarter. Deliveries were nearly halted during that period, but shipments resumed by the end of March with the first Vision-equipped Global aircraft handed over to Formula 1 racing champion Niki Lauda.

Hachey also told shareholders he is encouraged that the business aircraft market appears to be improving in 2012, and that the company expects to deliver 180 business jets this year, 17 more than the 163 delivered in 2011.