Hefty Drilling Converts 1987 Failing F5 Drilling Rig to Air Rotary with Casing Hammer

Published On: March 11, 2024By Categories: Drilling, Newsline

Fabricating equipment to make better tooling to achieve solutions has long been the standard in the water well industry.

Gearhead and fabrication wizard Johnny Kay of Hefty Drilling Inc. fits the bill, recently converting a 1987 Failing F5 drilling rig to air rotary with a casing hammer. A short video captures the conversion and select photos in this article.

Kay operates in Anchorage, Alaska, which creates even more of a challenge in completing fabricating projects. He was contacted by a village in December 2022 to drill wells for it and had a rig that he would barge to such villages, but it was in bad shape.

Kay began searching for a replacement. The only one that he found was the right size and a 4 × 4 was a 1987 Failing F5 located in Florida. It took three weeks for the rig to travel from Florida to Alaska by truck, boat, and railcar.

“It was a PTO mud rig with only development air on board,” Kay shares. “I contacted the sellers and got the measurements of the mast to see if the Atlas DT 500 Casing Hammer would fit it and it would, so my wife and I took a trip to check it out. I liked what I saw and knew we could make it work for us.

“I had an old IR 250 cfm trailer compressor that someone gave me, missing the engine, so we removed the existing compressor and installed the 250 cfm in its place.”

It took three weeks for the 1987 Failing F5 to travel from Florida to Alaska by truck, boat, and railcar. (Right) Mounting the hard lines on the mast.

(Left) Tophead tree with new hoses. (Second from left) A driller assistant platform was built along with a welder that was mounted in front of the rod box. (Second from right) Channels were built in the mast to allow the casing hammer to sit on the bottom during transport for lower center of gravity. (Right) The rig operating in summer 2023 in the village of Ugashik, Alaska. Photos courtesy Johnny Kay, Hefty Drilling Inc.

As a PTO rig, there is only so much horsepower available, so the 250 cfm was a good fit, according to Kay who also planned to run an auxiliary compressor. A positive with the IR compressors is that the parts are still available, so Kay was able to get all new filters and miscellaneous items to freshen it up.

“These changes put it in good shape for the job,” he says. “I had the rig trailered up to Seattle and then it was brought up on the barge to Anchorage. We only had a couple months to do our modifications so it would make the first barge to the village.

“In our free time between drilling and service work, we were able to mount the casing hammer, a rod box, and the air compressor. We also moved the hard lines that run up the mast to the other side as they would get in the way for us now using a rod box. Since the rig is a Failing it really resembles the new GEFCO rigs, and I copied the new 30K quite a bit on how the hard lines are on the mast and the tree that connects to the tophead.”

The rig went to the village of Ugashik in summer 2023. Kay’s son, Dylan, successfully drilled nine screened wells with it. Along with Dylan and Kay, Shane Eliason did a lot of work on the rig getting it ready.

“We kind of fell in love with the rig and now have plans to upgrade it more [in winter 2024] with a newer truck that has more horsepower so we can run a Vanair DR 435 cfm and upgrade the hydraulics. The rig will run 10-foot casing and rod, but if we encounter bedrock or possibly want to mud drill, we can run 20-foot rods by taking off the casing hammer.”

Kay, whose father-in-law, Curt Hefty, began the business in 1979 and himself an innovative fabricator, shared two important points if someone is considering this type of conversion:

  • Compatibility is the most important factor to consider.
    “You need to have enough horsepower to run everything, so research is important,” he says. “We are running a transfer case to run the air compressor instead of hydraulics, which in my opinion, is better than hydraulics.

“In a hydraulic-run compressor, you need to power a pump that then powers a motor that then turns the compressor. A lot of energy is lost and just added heat to a hydraulic system.”

  • For mounting a casing hammer, Atlas supplies all the items needed or it can fabricate it. Compatibility is big there also, but Atlas will most likely know what hammer fits a certain rig.

Click here to see Kay’s other fabrication projects on the company’s YouTube channel.

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