I think we have all had this problem more than once...
One of the many challenges of shooting fast-moving, metallic objects, is the ever-annoying light reflection that confuses the heck out of your AF. However, I have only had this problem in continuous AF mode, single servo mode seems to work a little better, but its much trickier to work with.
I agree with your panning technique, I just make sure I never focus on the highly-reflective parts... nose-cone, windows, and tail-cone.
To most people, the sky is the limit. To those who love aviation, the sky is home