Management of the difficult airway is one of the major challenges that anaesthetists face. The flexible fibreoptic scope is widely available but its use requires a level of skill, training and continued practice that is not universally found in all anaesthetists, particularly trainees. The Seeing Optical Stylet is a new, semirigid fibreoptic stylet 'scope. We compared the Seeing Optical Stylet with a gum elastic bougie in a simulated Cormack and Lehane Grade 3 laryngoscopy in a manikin. Forty-four anaesthetists were timed while intubating the manikin's trachea with both devices. The mean (SD) time taken with the Seeing Optical Stylet was 20.8 (9.3) s and with the bougie 30 (19.8) s (p = 0.001). Oesophageal intubation occurred six times with the bougie but did not occur with the Seeing Optical Stylet (p = 0.011). We conclude that the Seeing Optical Stylet may be superior to the bougie in difficult tracheal intubation. We feel that the results of this manikin trial are sufficiently encouraging to proceed to a clinical trial in patients.