The management of Trans World Airlines Inc. easily turned back an attempt by a dissident shareholder to gain election to the corporation's board of directors at the annual meeting here yesterday.

All 19 of the incumbent TWA directors were re-elected by a wide margin, leaving Fred Catalano without a seat. Catalano, a former TWA employee and chairman of a group called TWA Shareholders Project, has been trying for two years to gain a seat on the board.

More than 10.8 million shares were voted at the meeting, but Catalano held only approximately 200,000 of them. Even under the rules of cumulative voting, the preliminary count put Catalano's total at only 3.8 million votes; 10.6 million votes would have been needed for election.

In addition, two resolutions proposed by Catalano were beaten because of management opposition. One of the proposals, which the Securities and Exchange Commission formed TWA to include in its proxy, would have required the corporation to put at least five employees on the board. The other would have made fair employment practices a company policy.

Despite his long campaign, Catalano knew before the meeting that he was beaten. The TWA Shareholders Project's credibility was seriously damaged by the revelation that one of its nominees, Harold Smith Jr. of San Diego, could not substantiate his claim that he was a retired Marthe Corps general.

Catalano said after the meeting that he intends to pursue his campaign against TWA management and practices.

L. Edwin Smart, TWA chairman, told shareholders that the company's financial position is improving dramatically after a disastrous period two years ago. And he said the company is continuing to seek companies it might acquire, but he said nothing definite can be announced now.