Factors influencing performance during emergency airway management can be broadly divided into issues with preparation and those with implementation. Effective design of resources that provide guidance on management requires consideration of the context in which they are to be used. Many of the major airway guidelines do not specify whether they are intended to be used during preparation or implementation and may not take the context for use into account in their design. This can produce tools which may be not only ineffective but actively disruptive to team function in an emergency. The Vortex is a novel, simple, and predominantly visually based cognitive aid, which has been specifically designed to be used in real time during airway emergencies to support team function and target recognized failings in airway crisis management. Unlike the major algorithms, which are context specific, the Vortex is flexible enough for the same tool to be applied to any circumstance in which airway management takes place, independent of context, patient type, or the intended airway device. This makes the same tool suitable for use by emergency physicians, intensivists, paramedical staff, and anaesthetists. The Vortex contains many of the recognized features of an ideal cognitive tool and may be effective in reducing implementation errors in emergency airway management. Experimental evidence is required to establish this.