Originally built for the purpose of demonstrating the modern military capability of airships to the US Navy, the GZ-22 was originally designed by Goodyear but built by Loral after Goodyear withdrew from airship manufacturing. The GZ-22 had a steel framed and composite skinned gondola with a neoprene-impregnated polyester 2-ply envelope filled with helium. At its 1987 rollout the 205-foot 6-inch long airship was the longest in service. The GZ-22 Type Certificate was issued on 31 August 1989.
On 28 October 1999 the Spirit of Akron crashed at Suffield Township, Ohio, when it suddenly entered an uncontrolled left turn and began descending. The pilot and technician on board received only minor injuries when the airship hit trees. The NTSB report identified improperly hardened metal splines on the control actuators had sheared, causing loss of control and identified the probable cause as being failure by the "flight control system manufacturer to meet design (hardness) specifications".