The Cirrus SR-20 that crashed near McHenry County College yesterday was equipped with a Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS), which is a safety feature in every Cirrus aircraft.
At www.cirrusaircraft.com the CAPS is described as activated by a lever in the cockpit that deploys the parachute, which then lowers the plane to the ground.
Investigators will be concerned about determining the payload (weight of passengers and luggage), the remaining fuel in the tanks (and whether one tank might have run dry and then the position of any tank lever inside the cockpit), and estimating the speed of the plane when it hit the ground. For debris to be scattered for 100 yards, as estimated by the sheriff's deputies' report, the plane still had considerable forward momentum and would not have been drifting under the parachute.
Information about the CAPS can be read at http://cirrusaircraft.com/innovation/ Click on the "Learn More" button for additional information about the System.
Small planes often are not equipped with "black boxes". Although the plane was reported to have been operating under VFR, there is probably some computerized tracking by the FAA, so that it's flight path could be determined.
The plane had obviously been flying more than 30 minutes, if it departed the Marion, Ind. airport about 10:00AM. Could it cover 200 miles in 90 minutes? Definitely. Its departure time may have been about 10:00AM. E.S.T., which was not noted in early stories.