We studied the laryngoscopic view in 167 patients with their head and necks held in the neutral position with manual in-line stabilisation and cricoid pressure to simulate the patient with a suspected cervical spine injury. Each patient underwent laryngoscopy using both a McCoy and a Macintosh laryngoscope. The best view obtained by each larngoscope was graded according to standard guidelines. The results showed that the McCoy was never worse than the Macintosh. It improved the Macintosh grade by 1 grade in 41% and by 2 grades in 8% (p < 0.001). Difficult laryngoscopy, defined as the inability to see the glottis (grade 3 or 4), was found in 56 (33%) with the Macintosh laryngoscope and only eight (5%) (P < 0.001) with the McCoy laryngoscope. We suggest that patients with a suspected cervical spine injury and a full stomach should be intubated using a McCoy in preference to a Macintosh laryngoscope.