It wasn't an actual crash-landing that emergency responders and airport officials were tending, but a major emergency response drill.
The airport teamed up with local and state emergency agencies to put on the disaster drill. It's required every three years by the Federal Aviation Administration. Its importance was greater than usual because the airport is implementing a new emergency plan.
The exercise began at 8 a.m. with the crash siren sounding. In the scenario, a 737 carrying 33 passengers crash-landed, spilling fuel, causing fires and stringing debris across the runway.
After the exercise, officials met to share observations and experiences. For the most part, it was deemed a success.
David Whitaker of the Memphis Fire Department and director of the Aircraft Rescue amp& Fire Fighting Working Group, said the exercise had gone well.
He was one of the observers - dubbed "umpires" of the exercise - who said the lack of a clear command led to some confusion.
"There were some communication issues. We had no clear joint command or incident command. If the commanders don't know, nobody knows," he said. "That's what we needed to know - who to report to."
However, Whitaker also said communication is an issue in every drill.
The exercise started well enough, with the first Tupelo Fire Department truck arriving within five minutes to help the airport's firefighters. Two more TFD trucks arrived within five minutes.
Rescuers had to pry open the plane's main door and were immediately greeted by screaming, "wounded" and panicked passengers. Meanwhile, another group of firefighters had to battle a blaze caused by a fuel leak from the plane.
Nurses bandaged, stitched and wrapped up the injuries of those they could, performed emergency procedures on those with more serious injuries and waited for paramedics to arrive on the scene.
Four passengers were "dead" at the scene and several were transported to the hospital. The pilot also died and the co-pilot was severely injured.
Tupelo police officers secured the scene and directed worried family members to stay clear of the wreckage until more information about their loved ones could be released.
The airport terminal was where family members and the media were to go, but staff there weren't quite sure what to do, it was pointed out.
The TPD's mobile command post was set up, and department heads from various agencies met near the crash. Information was readily shared, but it was also noted that airport personnel don't have radios to communicate on the same frequency with the police and fire departments.
Seeing that there was a communication problem, emergency personnel used their cell phones to reestablish contact and to give airport officials the radios they needed.
About two hours after it started, "Broken Wing 2011" was over.
Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker and his men were in the center of the drill, battling the fires as well as assisting in rescuing the victims from the plane. Despite it being a manufactured disaster designed for training, Walker said the drill couldn't have been more beneficial.
"We train to failure," said Walker. "That's our approach to training. Even if we fail, this type of training will let us know our limitations. That's how we all get stronger in our jobs."
Walker said he intentionally stayed out of the command structure to allow his men to take over. Like Whitaker, he said he noticed a communication issue early on.
"We needed someone to step up to take command of the scene," he said, "but it didn't happen."
The victims were played by Itawamba Community College practical nursing students like Brooke Cockrell of Aberdeen. She and other students were all bandaged and bloodied.
Jo Maharrey, director of the Practical Nursing program at ICC, said Tuesday's training was beneficial for her students as well.
"We've never done this type of training before," said Cockrell. "In the case of a critical situation, these nurses will have to assist."
Airpor Director of operations George Smith said knowing what issues needed to be fixed was the point of the exercise.
"I wanted to go until we failed," he said. "That way you know your strengths and weaknesses. Now we can go back and address those weaknesses. ... but to me this exercise overall was a phenomenal success."