This study used a patient simulator to study the ease of use and efficacy of four currently available cricothyroidotomy sets. We assessed the success of insertion of each piece of equipment and measured the subsequent adequacy of oxygenation and ventilation. We also examined the complications encountered using each set. We found that there was a 100% success rate of achieving an adequate airway within acceptable time limits using the ‘Quiktrach’ and ‘Melker’ sets, with good airway patency and ease of ventilation. There was an unacceptably high failure rate in achieving a patent airway when using the ‘Transtracheal airway catheter with ENK-flow modulator’ and ‘Patil's airway'. The pre-assembled and user-friendly ‘Quiktrach’ set provided the fastest and most effective means of oxygenation in the simulated patient requiring an emergency surgical airway.