The plane plunged as the 135 passengers and crew were preparing for a routine landing in clear weather.
But the fact that it was already on course to land, was travelling slowly and had little fuel helped minimise the impact.
Nine people died and 25 were seriously injured as the Boeing 737 broke into three sections on hitting the ground in a remote corner of the airport, according to Rudd Wecer, an airport spokesman.
The plane, arriving from Istanbul, was already nose up and preparing to land when it plunged, and the tail hit the ground first and broke off, according to local residents.
Mr Wecer said the jet hit the ground just short of its designated runway and skidded into fields.
Dozens of ambulances are still at the scene, with fire engines remaining on standby although no blaze broke out when the crash happened.
Relatives of passengers were still waiting at the airport this afternoon to learn the identities of the nine who died and the condition of those who were injured.
Flights from and to Schiphol were getting back to normal as crash investigators continued working at the scene to establish what caused the crash in the last minutes of a routine flight on a six-year-old aircraft which, it has been confirmed, had passed routine airworthiness and safety inspections.
The first report on Twitter reportedly came from @nipp. Minutes after the crash he posted the message: "Airplane crash @ Schiphol Airport Amsterdam!!". Nipp's live updates are below.
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