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Possible aircraft collisions from a display of many aircraft are perceived by a human air traffic controller. In the work described, the computer understands the displayed aircraft conflict data by processing a global semantic representation of the displayed data. Understanding implies that the computer can represent and interpret the displayed data in a manner suggestive of an experienced human controller. The representation is called the conflict structure. The conflict structure and its use by an expert system that performs portions of the enroute air traffic control task are described. An example from a `live' air traffic control training problem is discussed.