While Dassault’s business jet deliveries dropped in this year’s first quarter, the French manufacturer expects shipments to improve throughout the year and remain on track to reach the highest total in three years.

Dassault expects to deliver 70 Falcons this year, up slightly from the 66 delivered in 2012 and 63 in 2011, company executives say. As Dassault worked to certify its newest Falcon 2000 models, deliveries were down nearly 50% in the first quarter to eight, compared with 15 in the first quarter of 2012.

But at the same time, new orders in the first quarter increased to 14 valued at €656 million, up from the 10 valued at €450 million a year ago. This continues the slow climb out from 2009’s net negative orders of 163.

The company backlog had reached 489 aircraft in 2008, representing five-plus years of production. That backlog plummeted in 2009, making it one of the company’s worst years.

But backlog is beginning to improve, reaching 110 aircraft in 2012. New orders began to outpace cancellations in 2011 and reached a net 58 positive orders last year.

Dassault’s Falcon 7X in particular is “doing very well,” says Dassault Falcon Jet President and CEO John Rosanvallon, calling the model its best-selling aircraft. The 7X accounts for 45% of Falcon sales over the past two years.

The 2000 is also continuing to capture orders, at 40% of the sales. This will receive a boost as Falcon brings two new version of the 2000 family to market this year. Both the Falcon 2000S and Falcon 2000LXS received certification in March. Deliveries on the 2000S began in April, while the LXS should enter service in the second half of the year.

While a smaller part of Dassault’s production, the 900LX remains a solid part of the lineup. Rosanvallon says the company is producing about a dozen a year – which account for about 15% of sales – and there are “no plans to stop it.”

Dassault continues to eye Asia as a key, largely untapped market. It outpaced North American in orders last year. Dassault is making inroads into the Chinese market, expanding its support infrastructure in the region and adapting its communications to the Chinese culture. At the same time, Rosanvallon says, the company is working to help ease some of the regulatory barriers that are holding back growth in the region.

He concedes that Dassault has been approached by Chinese groups, including AVIC, to consider production in China. But Rosanvallon says Dassault decided against that option. “We could not make sense of it from an economic standpoint,” he says.

Despite its economic woes, Europe remains a strong market for the French manufacturer. The North American market, however, “is still catching up,” Rosanvallon says, adding the company is “rebuilding hope that 2013 will show a nice improvement for the U.S. market.”

Meanwhile, Dassault continues to eye improvements and new products to help expand its presence in the super midsize, large cabin and long-range markets. The company is planning to unveil the SMS, which has long been on the drawing board, during the National Business Aviation Association Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition this fall.

But for now, the company is celebrating the roots of its business jet line, marking the 50th anniversary of the first flight of its venerable Falcon 20. That aircraft took to the skies on May 4, 1963.