John M. Duggan, 55, a civil engineer who specialized in the design of airports, died of cancer Saturday at the Washington Home Hospice, where he had been admitted two days earlier.

He had been chief airport engineer with the firm of Howard Needles Tammen and Bergandoff (HNTB), of New York City and Alexandria, from 1952 to 1977 and had worked at the Alexandria offices for the last four of those years.

Mr. Duggan then joined the firm of Tippetts-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton here and was sent to Bangkok, Thailand. He was back here for a brief period in 1978 and then was sent to Iran, returning here on May 25 of this year. He was under treatment at the Veterans Administration Hospital until his transfer to the Hospice.

Mr. Duggan was born in New York City. He received his engineering degree from Manhattan College and did graduate work at New York University.

Major projects with which he had been associated while with HNTB included the Greater Buffalo International Airport and Niagara Falls International in New York, the civil airport system of Jordan, Roanoke Municipal Airport in Virginia and the Newark, N.J., Airport.

He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Association of Airport Executives and the Society of American Value Engineers.

Mr. Duggan and his wife, Kathryn, of South Plainfield, N.J., were divorced 10 years ago.

He is survived by a daughter, Margaret (Peggy) of Portland, Ore.; four sons, Patrick, Michael, John and Thomas, all of South Plainfield, and two sisters, Sheila Miller, of Cincinnati, and Moira Duggan, of Bedford, N.Y. CAPTION: Picture, JOHN M. DUGGAN