Abstract Background To compare ultrasound-guided tracheal intubation (UGTI) versus Shikani optical stylet (SOS)-aided tracheal intubation in patients with anticipated normal airway. Methods Sixty patients aged 18–65 years old who presented for elective surgery under general anesthesia were recruited in this prospective randomized study. They were assigned into two equal groups, either an ultrasound-guided group (Group UG, n = 30) or an SOS-aided group (Group SOS, n = 30). After the induction of anesthesia, the tracheal intubation was performed by a specified skilled anesthesiologist. The number of tracheal intubation attempt and the duration of successful intubation on the first attempt were recorded. Complications relative to tracheal intubation including desaturation, hoarseness and sore throat were also recorded. Results The first-attempt success rate is 93.3% (28/30) in Group UG and 90% (27/30) in Group SOS (P = 0.640). The second-attempt was all successful for the 2 and 3 patients left in the two groups, and the overall success rate of both groups was 100%. The duration of successful intubation on the first attempt of Group UG was not significantly different from that of Group SOS (34.0 ± 20.8 s vs 35.5 ± 23.2 s, P = 0.784). One patient in Group SOS had desaturation (P = 0.313), and there was none hoarseness in the two groups. Sore throat was detected in both group (4 in Group UG, 5 in Group SOS, P = 0.718). Conclusion Ultrasound-guided tracheal intubation was as effective as Shikani optical stylet-aided tracheal intubation in adult patients with anticipated normal airway. Trial registration Chinese Clinical Trial Registry, ChiCTR-IIC-17010875 . Date of Registration: 15 March 2017.