Terra Atom Pilot’s Manual

Welcome, pilot! You are the owner of a finely-tuned speed demon. Treat it right, and you’ll make all the turns and take home the trophy1.

Terra Atom
Terra Atom

Quick start

Want to get up and flying quickly? Hate reading? Here’s how in a few steps.

Note: Before flying, turn off your Animation Override so that your avatar remains correctly positioned.

  1. Rez your plane on the ground and wear the HUD attachment.
  2. Sit in your plane.
  3. Click Safe Mode on your HUD (it’s your first time up, so better to be safe).
  4. Set Engine to ON.
  5. Set Brakes to OFF.
  6. Set Flaps to DOWN.
  7. Set Throttle to 10% and taxi to the start of the runway.
  8. Set Throttle to 90%.
  9. Accelerate  to 50 km/h then angle up to 10 degrees.
  10. Set Flaps to UP.
  11. Reduce Throttle to 60% for cruising speed.

A tour of the Terra Atom instrument panel

Terra Atom control HUD diagram
Terra Atom control HUD diagram (click to embiggen)

The instrument panel is a HUD attachment worn on the HUD “Bottom” attachment point. It features these vital instruments:

  • Speed indicator in kilometers per hour. Keep your airspeed in the green.
  • Altitude indicator (altimeter) in meters. This is your absolute altitude rather than altitude over the ground. Ground level is unlikely to be at 0 meters.
  • Artificial horizon2 showing pitch and roll in degrees. The outer ring indicates roll; the inner portion indicates pitch. The blue and brown colours denote sky and ground.
  • Compass. Shows which direction you’re pointing.
  • Vertical speed indicator (or “VSI”) in 100 meters per minute. Keep an eye on this. If it goes negative, you’re losing altitude!
  • Fuel indicator. When Safe Mode is off, this shows the amount of fuel remaining.
  • Temperature indicator. When Safe Mode is off, when this gets close to the red, you risk engine damage.

As well, the instrument panel features a few caution lights you should keep an eye on (unless Safe Mode is on).

  • MASTER WARNING. Lights up when there’s a problem with the plane. Admittedly, it’s not especially helpful as it doesn’t tell you what, exactly, is wrong with the plane. A master warning is there to tell you that you should have worn your brown pants.
  • FIRE. This one is mostly self-explanatory. It indicates that there’s a fire. Since Terra Atom is not equipped with extinguishers, consider pushing that Eject button.
  • ENGINE. This indicates that the engine is damaged. If the engine is still running, land immediately.
  • FUEL. If this lights up, you need to refuel at any Terra Fuel pump or fuel can. Terra Fuel is available either for free or for L$1 anywhere Terra aircraft are sold.

Using the basic flight controls

Terra Atom is controlled using standard keyboard flight controls:

  • Page Up / Page Down controls throttle.
  • andarrows control pitch like pushing forward or pulling back on a flight stick: pull back to point up; push forward to point down.
  • and arrows control roll (or ground steering).

Controlling your plane with chat commands

If you prefer to fly without the HUD attachment, you can use chat commands for most things. Except steering and throttle, of course, because that would be silly.

Commands can be typed in upper or lower case.

    Get a copy of the Terra Atom instrument panel HUD. The attachment is delivered to your Inventory in the Objects folder.
    Starts the engine.
  • STOP
    Stops the engine.
  • B
    Engages or disengages the parking brake. Naturally, this is only effective when the plane is on the ground and not moving.
  • F
    Lowers or raises the flaps. Flaps provide extra lift at low speeds, but also create drag.
  • MENU
    Opens the options menu. In most viewers, it’s in the top, right-hand corner.
  • CAM n
    Sets the camera angle. Examples: Say CAM 0 to return to default view. Say CAM 1 for standard follow-cam.
  • SAFE
    Toggles Safe Mode. Leaving safe mode on makes your plane invulnerable, which is a good option for novice pilots.
    Self-explanatory. It boots you out of the plane and lets the plane fly on. After you eject, the plane deletes itself.
    Toggles aerobatic smoke trails. Great for showing off your piloting skills to amazed onlookers.
  • LOCK mode name
    Sets the Lock mode to one of three modes: OWNER, GROUP, or ANYONE. Example: Say LOCK ANYONE to allow anyone to fly.
  • H
    Toggles a hovertext info display over the tail. This is useful if you prefer to fly without the HUD attachment. The hovertext shows altitude, speed, fuel, temperature, and more.

Leaving a colourful smoke trail

A smoke trail always livens up aerobatics. To turn on the some trail, flip the SMOKE switch to ON. Click the SMOKE COLOUR button to pick a smoke trail colour.

Smoke appears only while you’re in flight.

Fine-tuning the flight characteristics

Terra Atom is fast and agile, but how would you like to fine-tune the handling exactly the way you want?

While sitting in the plane…

  1. Click MENU or say MENU in chat.
  2. Choose Handling….
  3. Choose Normal, Sport (faster), or Custom.

If you choose Custom, the menu shows several more options:

  • Roll buttons: Increasing roll makes your plane bank more quickly. Set it too high, and it will be difficult to control, but will be great for banking into corners on the race course. Set it low, and it will be stable and have a very wide turning radius.
  • Pitch buttons: Increasing pitch makes your plane pitch more quickly. Set it too high, and it might lead to handling problems. Set it low for gentle pitch changes.
  • Thrust buttons: This increases the power of the engine. Set it too high, and sim borders will become a serious problem: crossing borders too quickly can lead to disconnections from the grid or loss of your vehicle. (This is an issue that affects all SL vehicles and is unlikely to be resolved by Linden Lab.)

Letting other people fly your Terra Atom

By default, Terra Atom only lets its owner fly. You can change this by setting the Lock mode.

  • Owner – In Owner mode, Terra Atom lets only you fly.
  • Group – In Group mode, anyone whose active group title matches the plane’s group can fly.
  • Anyone – Anyone can fly.

To set the lock mode, sit in your plane and say LOCK followed by a mode name. Example: Say LOCK ANYONE in chat to let anyone fly your plane.

You can also set the Lock mode in the menu.

Flying it safe or risking damage

One of Terra Atom’s key features is it’s ability to simulate damage in a number of frightening scenarios. If you’re a novice pilot, fly with Safe Mode on until you get a feel for flight. If you’re a veteran pilot, you might want to switch off Safe Mode and risk catastrophic damage.

Here are a few ways your flight can end very, very badly:

  • Prop strike. If your spinning propeller touches a solid object (like a runway, a sign, or another plane), it smashes and the engine is destroyed.
  • Wing strike. If a wing hits a solid object, it shears off and falls to the ground (rezzable land is required to see the wing fall), followed shortly by the rest of the plane. Apparently, you can’t fly without a full complement of wings.
  • Tail strike. If either tail hits a solid object, it shears off and affects your ability to control pitch (or ground steering). Lose both and it’s catastrophic.
  • Overspeed wing shear. If you pitch down at full throttle, it’s possible to exceed the plane’s maximum speed and shear the wings right off. That’s bad. What’s the maximum speed? I’ll let you find out the hard way.
  • Overheated engine. If you fly at maximum throttle, your engine temperature will rise until the danger zone. The TEMPERATURE light indicates when the engine is overheating. Leave it in the danger zone too long, and it will damage your engine, which you kind of need to stay up. If the engine is damaged, you’ll need to land immediately.
  • Water impact. Don’t fly into the water. It’s not a submarine, you know.
  • Fuel exhaustion. If you fly long enough to use up your fuel, the engine simply stops. Fuel cans are only L$1 (if not free) and infinitely reusable, so don’t be caught without one.

All of these events destroy your plane permanently except overheating and fuel exhaustion. Fortunately, you can just rez a fresh copy and everything’s fine again.

Painting your Terra Atom

Terra Atom comes with several paint themes, or you can purchase additional paint from third-party aircraft paint creators like VetronUK. (Note that I can’t provide support for third-party textures or other modifications to your Terra Atom.)

  1. While sitting in your plane click MENU or say MENU in chat.
  2. Click Paint….
  3. Use the << and >> arrow buttons to browse paint schemes. Paint is applied immediately.
  4. Choose whether to have a Shiny finish or a Matte paint finish.

How do you get your own custom decal or name on your aircraft? Contact a third-party aircraft paint creator who can modify the paint almost any way you like.

If you’re handy with PhotoShop or another image editor, you can download the Terra Atom texture package from www.cavers.ca. Textures are packaged as .psd files.

Making other modifications to your Terra Atom

If you’re handy with the SL building tools, you may want to modify parts of Terra Atom. Because it comes with Modify permissions, you can add or remove parts as you like. That said, altering Terra Atom can potentially cause it to stop working correctly.

I strongly recommend that you avoid re-sizing your Atom. Some moving parts depend on absolute position relative to the parent prim.


Sometimes things don’t go quite right, despite our best efforts. Here are some common issues and solutions. If your issue isn’t here, feel free to ask someone for help. Oh, and me. You can ask me, Cubey Terra.

Avatar doesn’t fit in the cockpit.

I try to design for the average-sized avatar, but some avatars are either too large or too small to fit. I don’t recommend resizing Terra Atom, as it will cause problems for moving parts. Suggestion: Create an average-sized avatar shape just for flying.

I lose control for seconds after crossing sim borders.

This is an issue that’s been with SL right from the start. Second Life has a fundamental design problem that Linden Lab is unlikely to be able to fix. When a vehicle crosses a border, all of the vehicle’s data: the model, the scripts, script memory, etc. all have to be transferred to the next simulator, which takes time. Sometimes it’s seconds, sometimes it fails. During this, the vehicle will appear to be spinning or rolling out of control. If all goes well, control is restored after the crossing. Suggestion: Cross borders slowly, regardless of which vehicle you’re in.


Terra Atom was designed, built,  scripted, and textured by Cubey Terra.

Beta testing: Beau (Beauzeah Zhao), Bizi Pfeffer, Jim Perhaps, Marianne McCann, Tish Coronet (Laetitzia Coronet)

Marketing and promotions: Beau (Beauzeau Zhao), Jim Perhaps

HUD calculations for pitch, yaw, and roll: Vetron (VetronUK)

Product updater function: Aeon Voom

Engine sounds (before editing): Jillian Callahan

Thanks also to Blacktip Razor, Java (Javatar Mocha),  Vetron (VetronUK), and others for assistance in producing this aircraft.


1. Trophy not included. Or turns. Really, do I have to supply everything?

2. Odd to call it an artificial horizon, when the actual horizon in Second Life is also artificial. Everything’s artificial!