In the 1950s, George E. Failing Co. designed a reverse-circulation drill called the JED-A. The JED stood for Jet Eductor Devise, and the A, if I remember right, was the first version of the drill. It was a new design to drill up to 60-inch diameter holes to 600 feet using reverse-circulation.

To test this technology, the first water well was drilled on George E. Failing’s plantation in his backyard. He cased off the shallow 60-foot waters, and drilled the hole to 600 feet in red shale – it was dry, and, for the intended purpose, useless. My dad later was sent by George Failing to Nebraska to drill large irrigation wells with a JED-A.

Because all of the cuttings come up the hole through the drill stem, they used 6-inch-by-10-foot flanged drill stem. They used a 10-foot drill stem because using 20-foot drill stem would cause a lift problem with suction lift, or the eductor. They ended up using straight suction lift, meaning all drill cuttings had to go through the pump to the mud pit.

Later on, reverse air became the standard in that an air line was installed inside the first joint or so. As long as the hole was kept full of fluid, the air lifted the mud and cuttings up through the swivel and into the mud pit, and cleaned mud (free of cuttings) flowed back to the hole, hence, the name reverse-air drilling.

This method continues today on large-diameter holes in the United States and other countries. It allows large-diameter holes to be drilled in soft to reasonably hard formations without washing out potholes or requiring large quantities of drilling additives and water; however, it does require large-diameter drill stems.

You aren’t so concerned about dropping tools in reverse-drilled holes; you just want to be more concerned about falling into the hole.

While setting up to drill some large-diameter wells in Nebraska in the ’50s, my dad was badly burned when a salamander heater backfired, setting his clothes on fire. They were attempting to pour diesel on the ground and set it afire to thaw out the ground so the dozers could dig the mud pits. Dad was the first one there; he jumped into a ditch and smothered the fire with his overcoat. When he got up, he saw he was sitting next to a keg of dynamite. He traveled back to Enid, Okla., and was in the hospital for several months.

Dad slipped out of the hospital one day to assist me in buying my first rig from the city of Enid – they never missed him. That’s another story for another time!

A bit of history: George Failing named his rigs to fit their application. Model 314 was a rig built for the U.S. Army in 1944 (for which I have an original manual). CFDs were chain feed drills. There was a large Failing 44, as well as the Failing 66 – I don’t know the reason for the numbers. I was told that George E. was sitting at his breakfast table one morning and saw his wife’s Mixmaster mixer, hence, the name Drillmaster drills.

I try to keep some of this history alive because when I’m gone, who cares!