Gloria Schaffer, nominated by President Carter to be the second woman member of the Civil Aeronautics Board, told Congress yesterday she supports congressional moves to reduce CAB regulation of the airline industry.

"Generally speaking, I think the traveling public, the industry and the interests of government are best served by the new philosophy . . . ," she told the Senate Commerce Committee during confirmation hearings.

She emphasized that deregulation should be "gradual . . . I think it would be irresponsible for the board to just take its hands and eyes off this industry," she said.

She also sought to reassure Sen. Edward Zorinsky (D-Nebr.) who expressed concern about service to small communities in a deregulated environment. "I feel very strongly that retention and improvement of service to small and medium sized communities is one of the most important responsibilities that the CAB has," Schaffer said.

Schaffer defended her ability to serve on the CAB after committee chairman Howard W. Cannon (D-Nev.) recited passages from campaign speeches she made while running for the Senate from Connecticut in 1976 in which she decried the causual process used to come up with "unqualified" candidates for federal regulatory agencies who then "breezed through" confirmation hearings. Was her nomination made by the process she criticized? Cannon asked her.

After noting that "one's words often come back to haunt one," Schaffer said she had a long-time and deep interest in regulatory activities, a knowledge of how government works from 20 years of service in Connecticut state politics and, she hoped, "a fast learning curve" since she deemed that "the most important."

Schaffer was strongly backed at the hearing by both Connecticut senators, Abe Ribicoff (D-Conn.) and Lowell P. Weicker (R-Conn.). "I was against her in 1976; I'm for her in 1978." Weicker, her Senate opponent in 1976, told the committee. "She's just tops."

Schaffer, 47, is currently Secretary of State of Connecticut, a post she has had since 1971. The state's top votegetter when she ran for reelection in 1974, she also served in the Connecticut legislature for six terms.

After the hearing, Sen. Cannon said he was "very impressed" with her "even though it's obvious she has no expertise in this field." Although she is "not qualified under her own stated standards in her campaign speeches," Cannon said "I personally feel she would make a good addition to the board."

If confirmed by the Seante, as expected, Schaffer would serve out the remaining months of the seat vacated by Lee R. West and get another six-year term.

Her confirmation may be put off for a few weeks since the Senate recesses at the end of this week until after Labor Day. The delay will reduce the board to three members as the service of G. Joseph Minetti, who has been extended by several presidential waivers because he is over 70, ends Aug. 31. The Administration is expected to name Tuscon attorney Marvin S. Cohen to succeed Minette.