During your training, it’s unusual to get fuel anywhere but your home airport. I generally plan for my students to go far enough on the long cross country that getting fuel at least once will be a requirement. This is often their first experience getting fuel on their own.
While the AF/D has some fuel information, it is best to refer to sites like Airnav and 100LL.com for more up to date information on fuel availability. You’ll want to know that fuel is indeed still available, whether it is self and/or full-service, and what the hours of operation are. Prices may also be a deciding factor.
At most smaller airports, you’ll only have one option for fuel. At larger airports, it’s not unusual to have two or more options for fuel, including both full and self-service.
If you are planning for self service, you’ll want to try and find the location of the fuel pumps during your planning by looking at info on the web. Othwerwise, when you land at a towered airport, you can ask to taxi to fuel and request progressive taxi instructions if you are unsure of the location. At non-towered airports, look for yellow directional signs pointing to fuel, or for logo signs (sometime on buildings) for common fuel vendors like AirBP, Chevron, or AvFuel.
Once you find the fuel pumps, you need to position the aircraft so you’ll be able to reach both tanks with the hose. In some places there is a taxi line you can follow near the pumps. Just make sure you know where the wing is relative to to any obstructions so as not to run it into anything. If you are unsure, it is safer to use the towbar to move close enough. Once in position (you may need to set the parking brake to keep it from rolling), find the ground strap and attach it to the airplane (I find the tie down ring easiest). If there is a ladder, position it so you’ll be able to climb it and fuel. There is usually a control box with a keypad and card swipe. In most cases, the first question it asks is “Press enter to confirm the aircraft is grounded”. From there it varies a lot – in some cases, you have to select type of fuel or which fuel pump (e.g. at El Monte, there’s one controller, but pumps for 100LL on both sides of the fuel island). Once you’ve got the controller happy and have swiped a credit card, you may have to use another switch to turn the pump on. Pull the fuel pump handle and hose out carefully, such that you’ll be able reach both tanks. Climb up and position yourself so you can see inside the tank. these pumps don’t shut off automatically – you have to stop pumping when it is full. Try to not rest the handle or hose on the wing – it can scratch paint or damage the fuel filler neck. Fuel both sides and make sure you get the caps back on tightly. There’s usually a button near the hose reel that rolls the hose back into the pump. If there was a separate switch, turn it back off and hopefully a receipt will magically print out.
Full service (fuel truck) is what we are accustomed to at El Monte. It is convenient, but usually costs significantly more than self-serv.
At airports with more than one FBO, parking and fuel frequently go together – where you park decides where you get fuel. At airports with one FBO (or simply the airport operations), you’ll park at transient parking and call for the fuel truck, either on a unicom frequency, a dedicated contact frequency you find on the web, on the telephone, or just walk into an office to ask for fuel.
Paying for fuel
For AACIT planes, the account we use for the fuel truck at El Monte is only valid at El Monte. You will need to pay for fuel and get reimbursed when getting fuel away from El Monte. Send the fuel receipt to the club treasurer, and write your accounting code on the receipt. A credit for the amount should be reflected on your next bill. Remember that the club generally reimburses for the cost of fuel at El Monte, so you may bear some of the costs at more expensive airports (e.g. SBA, LAS, MMH).