Ten volunteers, with no previous experience of resuscitation, were formally trained in the use of the laryngeal mask airway and the oropharyngeal airway (Guedel), bag and facemask for manual ventilation of the lungs in 104 fit, anaesthetised adults. They then used both airways in turn. The order of insertion was randomly allocated, and the times taken for insertion were also recorded. Ventilation for each airway was deemed to be successful if an increase in end-tidal carbon dioxide partial pressure did not occur and arterial oxygen saturation remained greater than 90%. Success rates for the laryngeal mask airway and the Guedel airway, bag and facemask were 87% and 43% respectively (p < 0.001) and the average insertion times were 27.4 s (SEM 1.5) and 15.8 s (SEM 0.50) (no significant difference), respectively. The laryngeal mask airway proved to be easier to use for manual ventilation than the Guedel airway, bag and mask for inexperienced personnel who had received a period of formal training in both techniques.