BANGKOK (Reuters) - Goodyear Thailand Pcl <GYT.BK> said on Tuesday it planned to invest $162 million to build a new radial aviation tire factory to expand production at Phathumthani, north of Bangkok, to meet growing demand in Asia Pacific.

The expansion will help the tire maker capture growing demand for radial tyres as commercial airlines are rapidly converting their fleets to radial tires from bias tires, Managing Director Finbarr O'Connor said in a statement.

The first phase of the three-phase expansion is targeted to begin operations by 2018, O'Connor said.

The demand for radial tires is expected to improve as new commercial planes use them as standard, because they are lighter than bias tires and more suitable for aircraft landings.

The world's aviation fleet is projected to double in size over the next 20 years, O'Connor said.

The Thai unit, 66.8 percent owned by U.S.-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co <GT.O>, provides original equipment and replacement tires for passenger cars, commercial trucks and retread tyres for domestic sales and exports.

The Thai company, which employs more than 1,000 people in Thailand, expects to hire 100 more workers after the project is completed, it said.

Ernst & Young Corporate Services Ltd is the financial adviser for the project.

(Reporting by Khettiya Jittapong; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)