How Things Fly Privacy Statement


Thank you for visiting the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s (NASM) How Things Fly website and reviewing our privacy statement.  We respect and are committed to protecting your privacy.   We provide this privacy statement to explain what information we collect through the How Things Fly website and how we use the information. 

The How Things Fly website is a hands-on, interactive exhibition that is focused on the principles and science of flight.  The How Things Fly website comprises an “Ask an Explainer” Question and Answer feature which allows users to submit questions about the How Things Fly exhibit;  “Create Your Own Paper Airplane” and “Distance Challenge” features which allow users to create virtual paper airplanes and share those airplanes via Facebook, Twitter, and email; as well as materials which educate users about the science of flight.

Information Collected and Stored Automatically

When you visit the How Things Fly website, we automatically gather and store the following information about your visit so that we can track the use of the How Things Fly website in order to make improvements. This information is stored and used in the aggregate only, and is not used to contact you personally:

  • The IP address from which you access the How Things Fly website
  • The name of the domain from which you access the Internet (for example,, if you are connecting from an America Online account);
  • The type of browser and operating system used to access the How Things Fly website
  • The date and time you access the How Things Fly website
  • The pages, files, documents and links that you visit
  • The Internet address of the website from which you linked to the How Things Fly website


In addition to information collected automatically, we use cookies, which are small pieces of information sent to your browser by a website that you visit. The cookies do not collect personally identifiable information. Cookies are used to track usage patterns, traffic trends and customer behavior, as well as to record other information from the How Things Fly website.  Content adjustments and customer service improvements are made based on the data derived from cookies.  We use a third-party vendor, Google Analytics, to place cookies and analyze the information collected by cookies in order to make the How Things Fly website more interesting and useful to you. The information that we collect from cookies will not be used to create profiles of individual users and only will be used in aggregate form.  You may set your browser to refuse cookies from the How Things Fly website. If you so choose, you will not be able to take advantage of the interactive elements of the How to Fly website. For more information on cookies and how to remove them from your computer, you may visit  You also may opt out of Google Analytics using the Google Analytics Opt-out Browser Add-on.

The Personally Identifiable Information We Collect

We collect dates of birth (month, date, and year) to determine whether users are under the age of thirteen (13).  We also collect initials, names, email addresses, and zip codes directly from children under the age of thirteen (13) (without obtaining prior parental consent) and from all other individuals to respond to one-time questions asked via the “Ask an Explainer” Question and Answer activity, as well as to respond to user requests to create and “fly” virtual paper airplanes in the “Distance Challenge.”  In both instances, you will receive only one (1) email from us.  We will immediately delete the email address that we collect from you as soon as the email is sent to protect your privacy.  We are not conditioning the participation in activities on the How Things Fly website on the disclosure of more personally identifiable information than is reasonably necessary to participate in any activity on our website.  Cookies on the How Things Fly website do not passively collect personally identifiable information from visitors.  See Cookies supra.

How We Use Your Personally Identifiable Information

We will use personally identifiable information collected from children under the age of thirteen (13) and all other individuals to respond one (1) time to a question submitted via the “Ask a Question” portal.  When you participate in a virtual paper airplane flight via the “Distance Challenge,” we provide a flight number and a URL for the virtual airplane flight via email.  After the initial email contact, we will not use your information to re-contact you for any reason and will not use your information for any other purpose. 

How We Share/Disclose Your Personally Identifiable Information

Information Shared on the How Things Fly Website
When you participate in the “Distance Challenge,” your initials, the location of your flight, the mileage accrued for your flight, and the number of days that your flight has been in transit will be displayed (and is available to the general public) on the “Distance Challenge” web page.  No other personally identifiable information is displayed on the “Distance Challenge” public web page or anywhere else on the How Things Fly website.

Information Shared within the Museum
We will share your date of birth, initials, name, email address, and zip code, with Museum employees who have a “need to know” the information.  We will not share your information with any other third-parties. 

Information Shared via Facebook, Twitter, Email
When you participate in the “Distance Challenge,” and when you create virtual paper airplanes  “Create your Own Paper Airplane,” we encourage you to “share” your virtual paper airplane via Facebook, Twitter, and email.  If you are under the age of thirteen (13), you will not be able to “share” (the feature will be disabled) your virtual airplane via Facebook and Twitter because those websites prohibit users under thirteen (13) from using those services.  If you are over the age of thirteen (13), you will be able to share your virtual paper airplane via Facebook and Twitter, but you should be aware that Facebook’s and Twitter’s privacy policies and other terms apply to your use of those services.  All users are able to “share” virtual paper airplanes via email. If you choose this option, you will be able to “share” your virtual paper airplane via the default email application installed on your computer.  We do not have access to or control of any information shared in this manner.


We may disclose personally identifiable information to (1) protect the safety of a child; (2) a Federal, State, or local law enforcement agency if the Smithsonian becomes aware of a violation or potential violation of law or regulation; (3) a court or party in a court or Federal administrative proceeding if the Smithsonian is a party or in order to comply with a subpoena; (4) a member of the public in response to his or her request for Smithsonian records under Smithsonian Directive 807, available at; (5) the Department of Justice or in certain legal proceedings when the Smithsonian, an employee of the Smithsonian, or the United States is a party to litigation or has an interest in the litigation and the use of such records is deemed relevant and necessary to the litigation; (6) Smithsonian officials, including the Inspector General, as needed to perform official duties; (7) a Member or Committee of Congress in response to a formal request; and (8) any other person or entity as required by law.


We are committed to ensuring that our information technology systems, applications and information technology infrastructure are secured. Unauthorized access and/or unauthorized attempts to change information on our website are strictly prohibited and punishable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 and the National Information Infrastructure Protection Act.


Within the How Things Fly website there are links to non-Smithsonian websites. These sites operate independently and have their own privacy policies. When you visit these websites, you leave our website and are no longer subject to our privacy and security policies. We are not responsible for the privacy or security practices nor the content of other websites, and such links are not intended to be an endorsement of those websites or their content.


We allow parents to review any personally identifiable information that we collect from children under the age of thirteen (13), and to request that we stop using and delete your child’s information at any time.  Please be advised that we delete the personally identifiable information (email addresses) of all individuals immediately after sending an email, so the information you request may not be available at the time of your request.  If you wish to make such a request, please feel free to contact us at:

National Air and Space Museum, Web & New Media Division
4th and Independence Ave, SW MRC 316
Washington, DC 20560-0316 or
(202) 633-1000

If you have general questions about Smithsonian's Privacy Policy, please contact us via email at