Why do you think all these brave men who set out to balloon round the world decide to get back to earth as quickly as they can? You don't really believe it's because an international airline owner can't get over the Atlas mountains, or a state-of-the-art watch company doesn't know what time of day it is. Of course not.

Those fifth-form events weren't called "balloon debates" for nothing - those guys must just get up there and realise that they don't like the look of the company.

While nodding respectfully to our would-be-buccaneering national heroes, we issue this balloon-debate challenge. Which four people in a basket would make you ditch more quickly than Richard Branson? The people you choose may be four lethal individuals, or just lethal in combination.

How long would you stay up, for example, if your companions were the Duke of Edinburgh, Jeanette Winterson, Liam Gallagher and Ann Widdecombe?

Please send us the four balloon-mates who would get you down fastest. Answers, headed "Balloon" must be posted first class today to Balloon, Features Department, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf London E14 5DL, or by fax to 0171-293 2182 by 11am tomorrow. Include your name and address; the most spine-chilling crew will win you a restorative bottle of champagnen