Shares of Brazilian airplane maker and Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Embraer (NYSE:ERJ) hit some rough weather late Monday evening when the company reported strong sales growth that failed to yield any profits growth at all. On the contrary, although Embraer delivered 30 jets in just the first three months of this year, and grew its revenues by an impressive 22% over the year-ago quarter, profits actually declined 6.6% year-on-year.

As if that news weren't confusing enough (on the surface, at least), the company's sequential results against Q4 2004 looked downright weird. Sales descended 20% while profits climbed 16%.

What to make of numbers like those? The market wasn't at all certain initially, first dropping the company's shares by as much as 5% on Tuesday before reconsidering on Wednesday and returning them to Monday's level. So deciphering the company's news obviously took a little time, but once that was done, Wall Street apparently decided to signal the all clear on Embraer.

Focusing on the "bad" earnings news, the reason profit declined year-on-year despite markedly stronger sales than in Q1 2004 was that last year's quarter saw Embraer complete several milestones on development of its Embraer 170 and 190 models. Embraer's partners share development costs on those planes, and in Q1 2004 that arrangement resulted in $90 million worth of payments to Embraer -- payments that significantly boosted Q1 2004 profitability, but were absent in Q1 2005.

Given the inherent "lumpiness" in the company's earnings caused by these periodic payments from partners, it's probably best to evaluate Embraer's results over longer periods of time. Over the past 12 months, for instance, Embraer has recorded profits of $394 million on revenues of $3.25 billion, giving it a net margin of 8.2%. That compares favorably to the 6.3% net margin the company achieved in fiscal 2003, as well as to the 3.3% profit margin that Boeing (NYSE:BA) has achieved over the past 12 months and the negative margins with which privately held rival Bombardier is still struggling.

From an investor's perspective, the relatively greater profitability at Embraer also matches up quite nicely with the company's 13.5 P/E -- a considerable discount to the 29 trailing P/E Boeing currently sports. And with Embraer also paying out a 3.2% annual dividend, twice the amount paid by Boeing, it shouldn't take a lot of effort to decide where to book your investing flight.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares of any company mentioned above.